The research project is focused on Jefferson’s hazardous venture in the realm of negativity. Jefferson was an enlightened traveler, but one who realistically went through the darkness and chaos. Whereas he unquestionably furthered the human capacity to better things, he also daunted wishful thinking by precisely targeting the very source of any shallow optimism: negativity was a real presence in his mind. He journeyed through necessity and fate, through the ideas of despondency and impossibility, and through what he perceived as a non-benevolent nature and history. Too often historians discount the acknowledgement that a “spirit of compromise” was emblematic of the worldview of the Enlightenment itself, and of Jefferson especially. Precisely in this spirit, Jefferson tried to oppose the consolatory myth that humans can attain systematic and complete ownership of the universe they inhabit. I will try to show that official optimism and assertiveness worked as a compensatory device to dispel “non-official” anxieties and disillusionment. Beneath the façade of official “machismo” it is quite interesting to detect “differences” in Jefferson’s mind. Tremors of reservation, a sense of the tragic, even a blatant pessimism and the acknowledgment of human mortality are the dialectical counterpart of his famous rhetoric of optimism.

Associate Researcher at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

VALSANIA, Maurizio
2003

Abstract

The research project is focused on Jefferson’s hazardous venture in the realm of negativity. Jefferson was an enlightened traveler, but one who realistically went through the darkness and chaos. Whereas he unquestionably furthered the human capacity to better things, he also daunted wishful thinking by precisely targeting the very source of any shallow optimism: negativity was a real presence in his mind. He journeyed through necessity and fate, through the ideas of despondency and impossibility, and through what he perceived as a non-benevolent nature and history. Too often historians discount the acknowledgement that a “spirit of compromise” was emblematic of the worldview of the Enlightenment itself, and of Jefferson especially. Precisely in this spirit, Jefferson tried to oppose the consolatory myth that humans can attain systematic and complete ownership of the universe they inhabit. I will try to show that official optimism and assertiveness worked as a compensatory device to dispel “non-official” anxieties and disillusionment. Beneath the façade of official “machismo” it is quite interesting to detect “differences” in Jefferson’s mind. Tremors of reservation, a sense of the tragic, even a blatant pessimism and the acknowledgment of human mortality are the dialectical counterpart of his famous rhetoric of optimism.
http://www.mceas.org/index.html
History; philosophy; American history; Enlightenment; Thomas Jefferson
M. Valsania
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/66714
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