Puritan vs. Enlightenment
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, which included the Puritan and Enlightenment
Eras, writers used idealism and pragmatism in their literature. Idealism is defined as the impracticality by virtue of thinking of things in their ideal form rather than as they really are. Pragmatism is defined as the doctrine that practical consequences are the criteria of knowledge, meaning, and value. Writers during the Puritan and Enlightenment eras incorporated idealism and pragmatism in their writings because they had idealistic goals that ended with pragmatic results.
Anne Bradstreet, a poet during the Puritan Era, wrote “Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666”. In this poem Bradstreet explains that her house has just burnt down. At first, Bradstreet is in distress, but quickly changes her attitude to an idealistic one. She realizes her house is with God, so she has no need of an earthly home because God built her spiritual house. Her very optimistic view of the disaster really reveals idealism in her poem. Bradstreet expresses idealism in this passage, “Thou hast an house on high erect, framed by that mighty Architect, With glory richly furnished, Stands permanent though this be fled. It’s purchased and paid for too, By Him who hath enough to do.” (Bradstreet’s Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House 43-48)
Benjamin Franklin, an Enlightenment author and philosopher, wrote and autobiography on himself that was never completed. In his autobiography Franklin records his experience attaining virtue. The idea came to him after attending a sermon that he believed guided people to be good Presbyterians, rather than good citizens. Franklin, disgusted with the idea, decided to attempt to make himself a good citizen by following a certain set of virtues. He strived to achieve moral perfection. Franklin states, “It was about this time that I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving...