THE LITERARY IMPORTANCE OF THE ADAMS-JEFFERSON LETTERS
> I am trying to complete a research paper on the literary importance of > letter > writing. As my professor puts it, analyze the work itself for a better > understanding of its meanings, themes, and importance in canon of American > literature. I have narrowed jeffersons letter writing to the letters that > were written to John and Abigail Adams. My problem is I can find no > previous > essays of this type of analysis. I can do the work; I just need a starting > point. Any help would be greatly appreciated. You might want to have a conference with your professor in order to get a better sense of precisely what you should be looking for and emphasizing in your paper. I will give you a synopsis of what I think your approach should be. But I think you would be well advised to confirm this with your professor, and provide him an opportunity possibly to enlarge on just how you should approach the project. The overall purpose of your investigation is to get some sense of what value, what importance these letters of Jefferson have to the better understanding of the times in which he lived and the level of scholarship then existing. In addition, you want to outline the actual contributions that Jefferson made to the scholarly thinking of his time, as demonstrated in these letters, and the importance to us today of his thinking in the various areas he touched upon. The letters of Jefferson to John Adams were a wise choice for this kind of analysis, because they include a wide variety of the most important issues of his day. They also include many practical and mundane issues, and many scholarly issues. By all means, do not overlook TJ's great put-down of Plato's Republic. He and Adams also have broad discussions of issues in political science that are as vital today as they were then. As I see it, you will want to identify ALL the major areas that they discussed, briefly synopsize TJ's positions and views in each area, and briefly consider the meaning those views have for us today. Comparing those views to the level of scholarship of his time would be extremely interesting, but I think that would carry your project far beyond a mere research paper. It might be enough to evaluate them in view of today's scholarship, and how useful they are to us now. TJ's views on Plato, for example, seem to have no vocal adherents today, yet they appear (to me) quite valid. I use this as an example because it made quite an impression on me personally. Having previously read Plato's Republic, when I later read TJ's assessment, I felt that at last I was reading a viewpoint that reinforced my own wariness. TJ's views on political topics have never been exceeded, IMO, and too often have been unfortunately neglected. Perhaps you should remain aware that, though sometimes provoked by Adams, Jefferson never took the bait, and refused to take up any issues that would mean a direct confrontation with Adams. It is a very interesting research topic that you have selected. Luckily, the Adams-Jefferson letters are all collected in one book, which is highly acclaimed as a work of scholarship.
Table of Contents