Women, Love, and Virtue in the Thought of Edwards and Franklin

Ruth H. Bloch

in Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780520234055
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936478 | DOI:
Women, Love, and Virtue in the Thought of Edwards and Franklin

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This chapter turns to the intellectual underpinnings of the emerging sentimental ideas about women. It compares the ideas of Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin. It also shows ways to connect their theological and philosophical ideas with shifting popular conceptions of women in the mid-eighteenth century. Both Edwards and Franklin found relations between men and women problematic. Edwards never fully resolved the thorny moral and spiritual questions posed by human love. For all Franklin's appreciation of the economic and reproductive aspects of marriage, he made considerably less room for intimate relationships than Edwards. It is suggested that romantic love between men and women symbolized the ambiguous and even threatening element of human interdependence and emotional fusion. While these two intellectuals managed for the most part to avoid this increasingly troublesome issue, it would emerge with full force in the sentimental literature and religious moralizing of the following generation.

Keywords: Jonathan Edwards; Benjamin Franklin; women; romantic love; marriage; sentimental ideas; human interdependence; emotional fusion

Chapter.  6955 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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