Title

The Franklin Stereotype: The Spiritual-Secular Gospels of Four Nineteenth-Century American Authors

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)

Department

Literature and Languages

Date of Award

Fall 2015

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the spiritual-secular influences of Benjamin Franklin and his Autobiography found in the selected novels of four nineteenth-century American authors: Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall, A Domestic Tale of the Present Time; Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Work, A Story of Experience; Horatio Alger, Jr.’s Ragged Dick or, Street Life in New York with Boot Blacks; and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Specifically, I examined three areas of influence: navigation of a print market demanding both secular and spiritual plotlines; creation of “secular saints” who borrow spiritual iconography for secular journeys and goals; and the dissemination of “secular gospels” or social change messages couched in religious language. These areas of influence form what I call the Franklin Stereotype. I argue that these nineteenth-century authors take up Franklin’s stereotype in order to take advantage of a seemingly divided market. Like Franklin, these authors do not see a divide between the spiritual and the secular; they do not see a difference between the religious or the capitalist versions of the American Dream. They write to justify and reify this perspective.

Advisor

Karen Roggenkamp

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature

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