The Puritan Art World

DSpace/Manakin Repository

The Puritan Art World

Citable link to this page


Title: The Puritan Art World
Author: LaFountain, Jason David
Citation: LaFountain, Jason David. 2013. The Puritan Art World. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
Full Text & Related Files:
Abstract: In this dissertation, I argue that the iconoclastic and anti-materialistic "art of living to God" is the central theoretical preoccupation of English and American Puritan intellectuals. I call attention to a wealth of previously unacknowledged writing about image, art, architecture, and form in Puritan literature, while highlighting how recent materialist analyses of Puritan culture have effectively obscured evidence of iconoclasm and anti-materialism in this milieu. In the first chapter, I explore the Puritan inheritance of John Calvin's theology of the "living image," which defines human beings as God-made pictures and greater than all images that are man-made. I explain how Puritan image theory is wedded to a theorization of the art of living to God, such that Puritan art and image theory are one and the same. The second chapter delineates various ways in which the imitation of Christ undergirds the conceptualization of "art work" in Puritanism. Here I focus on how Puritan ideas about both art and image intersect with their theorizations of happiness, shining, walking, and printing/pressing. I examine the theology of "edification" in my third chapter, probing how godly Puritans were understood to be "living architecture" and "living plants." In Chapter 4 I consider how Puritan anti-formalism contributes to and complicates Puritan art and image theory. More than anything else, a preoccupation with theorizing image, art, architecture, and form is what makes intellectual Puritanism a coherent tradition across space (England and the Netherlands to New England) and time (ca. 1560-1730). In the fifth and concluding chapter, I address an aspect of Puritan ministerial writings in which pastoral practice is defined not as art work but in terms of image curatorship and conservation. I then suggest that Puritan biographical literatures are archives or histories of artful and edificatory performativity. I argue that texts such as broadside elegies, funeral sermons, the monumental collections of lives by Samuel Clarke and Cotton Mather, and perhaps even gravestones should be understood as histories of Puritan art and architecture.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at
Citable link to this page:
Downloads of this work:

Show full Dublin Core record

This item appears in the following Collection(s)


Search DASH

Advanced Search