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Critical- From what you know about the USA has anything surprised you in the literature that has been introduced to you so far in this unit.

It must be said that my knowledge of the US is quite limited to that of very recent events regarding a certain Mr Trump, so in a sense everything that has been introduced to me in the unit thus far has been new. Perhaps the main thing that has surprised me is seeing the “adolescence” of many well-established and ingrained aspects of the American mentality and political landscape. As I’ve said, I have only ever taken a strong notice of America since 2016 (for obvious reasons) and have witnessed concepts like libertarianism, in their maturity. It is when reading namely Henry Thoreau’s “Resistance to Civil Government” that this revelation was made.

Thoreau opens with a strong case against the role of the government stating, “Government is at best an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.” (Levine & Thoreau 2017 903) At the heart of this scathing review, is the clear message of reduced government intervention, due to improper governance and immorality; a message that still rings out in the popular philosophy of Libertarianism. A major aspect of the Libertarian philosophy is to “contend that the scope and powers of government should be constrained as to allow each individual as much freedom as is consistent with a like freedom for everyone else.” (Boaz) Whilst not directly interchangeable, it is clear to see how the philosophy of Libertarianism, especially within America, has taken influence from the works and philosophy of Thoreau.

This, therefore, is what I have found surprising from the American Literature unit thus far, being able to witness the mature and established aspects of the American mentality, in their youth. Moving throughout this course it will be interesting to see how these ideas further develop in an ever-changing historical American landscape.

Thoreau , Henry David. Resistance to Civil Government . Edited by Robert S. Levine, 9th ed., vol. 1, W.W Norton and Company Inc. , 2017.

Boaz, David. “Libertarianism.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/topic/libertarianism-politics.

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