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American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions$
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Cindy Weinstein and Christopher Looby

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156172

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156172.001.0001

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Liberty of the Imagination in Revolutionary America

Liberty of the Imagination in Revolutionary America

Chapter:
(p.39) [1] Liberty of the Imagination in Revolutionary America
Source:
American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions
Author(s):

Edward Cahill

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231156172.003.0001

This chapter establishes the dialectic of freedom and constraint that is constitutive of aesthetic theory and political analyses of liberty. During the revolutionary era, liberty was celebrated, explained, and explored by Anglo-American writers in a variety of literary genres, from poetry and sermons to periodical essays and treatises of political theory. But it also found expression in works of aesthetic theory. Such texts offered a nuanced language for articulating and negotiating the problem of liberty. Debates about aesthetic perception cast the liberating fulfillment of mental pleasures against the dissipating slavery of bodily ones. In their critical engagements with aesthetic theory, and in literary texts informed by it, American writers sought to delineate the difficult relationship between citizenship and subjectivity and to chart the modes of perception, imagination, and judgment that made liberty in a republic possible.

Keywords:   freedom, constraint, liberty, revolutionary era, aesthetic theory, American literature, aesthetics

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