Building my own historiographical account of Perry Miller historiography

September 12, 2006

Why am I interested in Miller?I am interested because I am interested in ‘unity,’ or those times when humans let down their guard long enough to enter into cosmos and bring back into their mind ideas inspired by oneness occasionally felt. This sounds pretty hokey, so I can try to fix it up by saying I am interested in the emergence of the free will, or better in historiography and ways in which America as a country or a culture can trace ideas itself back to Classical culture. I am interested in intellectual history, how ideas effect time.  At this point in my life I am no longer interested in economic and cultural determinism which has provided me with nothing but misery in the last decade.  I want to know people and I want to believe in their ability to act according their own volition. 

In his day, Miller defended Puritans from narrow readings of economic determinists, and showed how (at least some Puritan preachers of) the Seventeenth Century were interested in humanism traceable to Hellenic times. Miller may be read today by a complete fool such as myself to discover the Puritans belief in a world created by God as a unity. Perhaps I am still ‘wet behind the ears’ enough to revel in the idea that (1) the universe was created by a mysterious force and (2) since the world was created good and beautiful, depraved man is the source of all disharmony (well this still irks me a bit, but I go roll with it a bit.) Man does seems to destroy the earth, and although the earth may never be destroy, just changed, I am interested in recovering certain traditions which have been lost in the last few generations with the amplification of the echo of free will.

It all adds up to the enormous questions about the freedom of thought, and our place in the world as the living; how life is simultaneously simple and difficult, …

Post of sources to be worked with.

Anxieties of Influence: Perry Miller and Sacvan Bercovitch
Arne Delfs
The New England Quarterly > Vol. 70, No. 4 (Dec., 1997), pp. 601-615Delfs above reads Harlans below as a source for the potential conflict between Bercovitch and Miller.A People Blinded from Birth: American History According to Sacvan Bercovitch
David Harlan
The Journal of American History > Vol. 78, No. 3 (Dec., 1991), pp. 949-971One of Bercovitch’s early essay potentially opposing Miller.

New England Epic: Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana
Sacvan Bercovitch
ELH > Vol. 33, No. 3 (Sep., 1966), pp. 337-350 Older Perry Miller historiographical essays (these articles printed and filed):The Myth of Perry Miller
Francis T. Butts
The American Historical Review > Vol. 87, No. 3 (Jun., 1982), pp. 665-694

Perry Miller and Philosophical History
David A. Hollinger
History and Theory > Vol. 7, No. 2 (1968), pp. 189-202


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