By Stephen Donadio, Professor Stephen Railton, Professor Ormond Seavey
The essays proceed a discussion among the hot England of Emerson and the hot York milieu of the early Thirties. the recent York discussion flourished between intellectuals concurrently focused on the political effects of liberalism and Marxism and with the imaginative implications of modernism. In either sessions the vexing dating between politics and literary expression was once a typical concern. Contributors, a few of whom write approximately Emerson, a few approximately Quentin Anderson, are Jacques Barzun, Stephen Donadio, Denis Donoghue, Aaron Fogel, Carl Hovde, Steven Marcus, Stephen Railton, Ormond Seavey, Peter Shaw, Timothy Trask, Diana Trilling, and Paul Zweig.
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The compliment unintentionally betrays the limitation. 10 When the successors of the Old Lights drifted into Unitarianism at the beginning of the nineteenth century, they preserved the old Puritan church polity. In fact, among the first Unitarian churches the connection between the minister and the civil body was a good deal tighter than it was among the Congregationalists, the descendants of the New Lights. Unitarianism had gained its foothold in eastern Massachusetts in the 1820s by means of the so-called Dedham decision, a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling which determined that a minister was to be selected by the voters of a town, not only by the church members of the congregation.
But the force of the Awakening had shown that the ideal of solidarity inherited from seventeenth-century American Puritanism was no longer emotionally sustaining. The crowds who listened to the itinerants had left home; they were finding themselves somewhere else. Most of the hearers had never been in so large a group before, crowds of thousands assembled out of the villages and farms. Out of that rural landscape, the itinerants created momentary cities of the saved. In leaving the ministry, Emerson was also leaving home.
Almost all the religion in the world has been produced by revivals. God has found it necessary to take advantage of the excitability there is in mankind, to produce powerful excitements among them, before he can lead them to obey. " 7 From the beginning of the Awakening, the Boston clerical establishment was hostile to the phenomenon of itinerancy and to the emotional responses aroused by the itinerants. Enlightened, sedate, and protective of the public order, they asked why these new preachers were on the move.