from the cadences of Calvinism to the experiments of Wallace Stevens and Gertrude Stein

Richardson

While ferociously pious, Jonathan Edwards was also way into metaphysics. Thanks to Jeremiah Dummer’s gift of five hundred volumes, which began making their way into the Yale library in 1714, the undergraduate Edwards enthusiastically discovered Descartes, Arnauld, Locke, and—most crucially for Joan Richardson’s A Natural History of Pragmatism—an edition of Isaac Newton’s Opticks (1704), which Edwards read time and time again. From the repetition of Samuel Clarke’s Latin translation of Newton’s English version of Opticks, Richardson finds etched into Edward’s later sermonic rhetoric a prismatic network of “light” (lumen), and from this link, she distills her fascinating premise: Attention to these sorts of lexical echoes will get us from the cadences of Calvinism to the experiments of Wallace Stevens and Gertrude Stein.

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