Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter surveys the reception and appropriation of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678; 1684) in American religious history and literary culture, arguing that, through a series of politically, theologically, and artistically motivated realignments, American adaptations of John Bunyan’s classic shaped key features of American Protestantism and of a distinctively American literary tradition. In the eighteenth century, The Pilgrim’s Progress was evoked to reconceive ‘progress’ along lines more commercial and technological than spiritual. In the nineteenth century, modernized spin-offs became important touchstones in the hotly contested debates over theological liberalism and conservatism. In the increasingly secular twentieth century, it was often either ‘emptied of religion’ and recast as ‘road literature’, or appropriated dialectically as a means for coming to terms with the perceived absurdity of the human condition. In sum, to quote Jean Bethke Elshtain, ‘the progress of Pilgrim’s Progress tells us a good bit about the American story’.

Keywords: John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, American religious history, American literary history, American Protestantism

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.