Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American by Michael O'Brien

By Michael O'Brien

During this magisterial heritage of highbrow existence, Michael O'Brien analyzes the lives and works of antebellum Southern thinkers and reintegrates the South into the bigger culture of yankee and ecu highbrow heritage. O'Brien unearths that the evolution of Southern highbrow lifestyles paralleled and changed advancements around the Atlantic via relocating from a overdue Enlightenment sensibility to Romanticism and, finally, to an early kind of realism. quantity 1 describes the social underpinnings of the Southern mind by way of studying styles of go back and forth and migration; the formation of principles on race, gender, ethnicity, locality, and sophistication; and the buildings of discourse, expressed in manuscripts and print tradition. In quantity 2, O'Brien seems on the genres that grew to become attribute of Southern proposal. all through, he can pay cautious awareness to the various people who shaped the Southern brain, together with John C. Calhoun, Louisa McCord, James Henley Thornwell, and George Fitzhugh. putting the South within the better culture of yankee and eu highbrow background whereas recuperating the contributions of diverse influential thinkers and writers, O'Brien's masterwork demonstrates the sophistication and complexity of Southern highbrow existence earlier than 1860.

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Additional info for Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860 (2 Volume Set)

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Book Three, ‘‘A Volley of Words’’ (a phrase from Elizabeth Ruffin),20 tries to describe how Southern society structured intellectual interactions, by a sequence of chapters that moves from the most informal of discourses (conversation) to the semiformal (letters, diaries) to the most formal (the printed word as it was read, then as it was written). 21 Not all intelligence felt the need to express itself in a book or a periodical; indeed, print may be understood as only a place where conversation went to achieve a form of permanence.

Then there was kinship. For generations, Northern and Southern families had been moving, intermarrying, visiting, moving again, writing letters, and exchanging cousins. Yet the overall pattern of movement between North and South, South and North, was asymmetrical. More Northerners came South for economic opportunity, if sometimes for their health, while Southerners (though they also sought the main chance) habitually went North to use cultural facilities. On balance, the result of these interchanges was that Northerners knew less about the South than Southerners did of the North.

First, political thought is examined, in six phases: as it came from the Southern Enlightenment’s most vigorous exponent and critic, John Taylor; as it was reassessed by Virginians in 1829–30, when a colder Burkeanism began to be expressed; as it was articulated by the South Carolinians of the 1820s, who ruthlessly exposed the contradictions of American constitutionalism and began to apply to it the social theories of cultural nationalism; as it was expounded by Andrew Jackson, the South’s preeminent democrat and nationalist; as it was reassessed by the later Calhoun, who began to see that there was something between individualism and national culture, more local shapes that American history had produced; and, last, as it was redefined by Romantic theorists who came to think that one could have a self only if first one had a society, and that society had come to be the South.

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