In College, prominent cultural critic Andrew Delbanco offers a trenchant defense of such an education, and warns that it is becoming a privilege reserved for the relatively rich. In describing what a true college education should be, he demonstrates why making it available to as many young people as possible remains central to America's democratic promise.
In a brisk and vivid historical narrative, Delbanco explains how the idea of college arose in the colonial period from the Puritan idea of the gathered church, how it struggled to survive in the nineteenth century in the shadow of the new research universities, and how, in the twentieth century, it slowly opened its doors to women, minorities, and students from low-income families. He describes the unique strengths of America’s colleges in our era of globalization and, while recognizing the growing centrality of science, technology, and vocational subjects in the curriculum, he mounts a vigorous defense of a broadly humanistic education for all. Acknowledging the serious financial, intellectual, and ethical challenges that all colleges face today, Delbanco considers what is at stake in the urgent effort to protect these venerable institutions for future generations.
In a new afterword, Delbanco responds to recent developments—both ominous and promising—in the changing landscape of higher education.
Andrew Delbanco tells of the stringent God of Protestant Christianity, who exerted immense force over the language, institutions, and customs of the culture for nearly 200 years. He describes the falling away of this God and the rise of the idea of a sacred nation-state. And, finally, he speaks of our own moment, when symbols of nationalism are in decline, leaving us with nothing to satisfy the longing for transcendence once sustained by God and nation.
From the Christian story that expressed the earliest Puritan yearnings to New Age spirituality, apocalyptic environmentalism, and the multicultural search for ancestral roots that divert our own, "The Real American Dream" evokes the tidal rhythm of American history. It shows how Americans have organized their days and ordered their lives--and ultimately created a culture--to make sense of the pain, desire, pleasure, and fear that are the stuff of human experience. In a time of cultural crisis, when the old stories seem to be faltering, this book offers a lesson in the painstaking remaking of the American dream.
"The arguments in this book will resonate in the study of American culture for years to come...There is much to recommend this book ... historians and literary critics alike will be challenged by [it]. The Puritan Ordeal shows great promise for the continuing study of the life of the mind in America." DD--Bruce Tucker, Journal of American History
"Delbanco's singular achievement in The Puritan Ordeal remains his sensitive, attentive, and generous recovery of the first emigrants' voices...[This book] may well provide the richest transcription we have of the hesitant, bewildered yet ultimately hopeful new-world inflections that register everywhere in early American culture." DD--Donald Weber, American Literary History
"The author of this study, displaying an ideal combination of sensibility and judgement, discusses the Puritans who fled to New England and traces the effect of their immigrant experience on American literature. Like later immigrants, they found that emotional rifts opened between the first and second generations, and, like other English religious radicals, they were disturbed by women's demands for religious equality. The Puritan hope of creating a Christian--nonexploitative--economy in the New World was disappointed, and the dominant strand in Puritan thought became the need to constrain sinful human beings. However, Mr. Delbanco believes that it was the other strand in Puritan thought--the aspiration toward a community of saints--which became an important influence on American literature." DD--New Yorker
"Against those historians whose primary interest has been the life of the mind or the development of the ecclesia, Delbanco emphasizes the fact that the Puritans were first and foremost a group of immigrants. This book offers a perceptive look at the inner history of that particular group." DD--American Journal of Theology and Philosophy
"Andrew Delbanco's book is concerned with one of the most famous achievements of the Puritan spirit, the colonisation of New England. Popular American mythology depicts this as a classic triumph of faith over adversity. Mr. Delbanco shows convincingly that it is more truly seen as an 'ordeal', marked by tensions already present in the old world and intensified in the new." DD--The Economist
"A noteworthy historical analysis." DD--Kirkus Reviews
"This is a learned, well-researched, quotable text, delving deeply into matters of scholastic debate; yet the most interesting parts illuminate the felt experience of the earliest New Englanders: their passion for sermons, their Pauline belief in sudden transformations through grace." DD--Virginia Quarterly Review