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By Paul Hurh

If the US is a kingdom based upon Enlightenment beliefs, then why are such a lot of of its so much celebrated items of literature so darkish? American Terror returns to the query of yankee literature's certain tone of terror via an in depth examine of 3 authors—Jonathan Edwards, Edgar Allan Poe, and Herman Melville—who not just wrote works of terror, yet who defended, theorized, and championed it. Combining up-to-date ancient views with shut studying, Paul Hurh indicates how those authors constructed terror as a different literary have an effect on proficient incidentally the concept that of considering turns into, within the wake of Enlightenment empiricism, more and more outlined via a collection of austere mechanic procedures, similar to the medical procedure and the algebraic services of analytical common sense. instead of looking for a sense that may go beyond considering through subtending cause to emotion, those writers present in terror the sensation of pondering, the abnormal feeling of reason's authority over emotional schemes. In so doing, they grappled with a shared set of tolerating questions: what's the distinction among pondering and feeling? once we recognize whatever, how can we be aware of that we all know it? Why does it look most unlikely to cause oneself out of an irrational worry? And what turns into of the liberty of the desire once we notice that is affecting can push it around?

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Additional resources for American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville

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We found in our mind a superiority over nature itself in its immensity” (Critique of Judgment 120). Such recourse from sublime terror to the promotion of the individual subject, of one’s own powers of mind, would be incomprehensible to Edwards, who professed the individual’s nothingness and ultimate dependence upon God, as well as to Poe and Melville, who through their fictions consistently locate their sublime-like terrors as originating in and ultimately challenging the sanctity of individual subjectivity.

We have seen above how difficult it can be to think about feeling, especially when the feeling itself, in the case of terror, is oriented toward the very operations that would produce knowledge. ” For the authors of this study, thinking is not a self-evident process or faculty. From Edwards’s interest in logic, Poe’s literary experimentation with the terms of analysis, and Melville’s INTRODUCTION 19 continued obsession with epistemological skepticism, all three authors engage with thinking about thinking, and find in logical method the clearest articulation of what thinking, as object, might be.

Set at a distance, the human and the divine unhinge, and a late-career Edwards pursues “an ideal, indifferent to the fact that, according to Edwards’s characterizations, it could not be implemented” (214n). Paradoxically, even perversely, committed to working out an idealist impersonality beyond the point at which it stops being useful, this Edwards would evacuate the self not into the plenitude of dynamic nature and experience but rather into the harshest scarcity of rule-bound and static quantitative abstraction.

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