Sample Paragraph

The following paragraph comes from an essay that Meg Gregory wrote for my Problems in American Thought class during the Fall semester of 2006.  (I made only a couple of small edits.)  Each of my comments in red matches up with the previous underlined passage. –DV

Although Transcendentalism would have been considered to be a pack of heresies by the Calvinistic Puritans of the past, it drew upon many of the basic seeds for religious thought that were present in the Puritan teachings. {Note the specific and argumentative topic sentence.}  Leading Puritan historian, Perry Miller explains that, “From the time of Edwards to that of Emerson, the husks of Puritanism were being discarded, but the energies of many Puritans were not yet diverted—they could not be diverted—from a passionate search of the soul and of nature, from the quest to which Calvinism had devoted them.”[1] {Note the introduction of Perry Miller—we can tell why his views matter.}  In other words, the Transcendentalist quests for finding God in nature as well as the desire for deep connection with God were simply carryovers from the Puritanical past. {Note the explanation of Miller’s words.}  A good example of this is the close relationship between Emerson’s sentiment of virtue and what the leading Calvinist Preacher Jonathan Edwards called “the divine light.” {Note the connection of the primary source with the point being made.}  In his famous “Divine Light” sermon, Edwards explained the divine light: “He [the believer] does not rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart.”[2] {Note the introduction of Edwards and his sermon.} Emerson was speaking of the same idea when he wrote: “[T]he sentiment of virtue is a reverence and delight in the presence of certain divine laws… They will not be written out on paper, or spoken by the tongue.  They elude our persevering thought; yet we read them hourly in each other’s faces, in each other’s actions, in our remorse.”[3] {Note the explicit connection drawn with Emerson and the use of a colon to set off the multi-sentence quotation.}  Each of these men wrote of an innate feeling or connection between God and humanity that could not be explained, only felt by the believer. {Note the concluding comment that ties the pieces together.}


[1] Perry Miller, “From Edwards to Emerson,” in Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press. 1956), 202.

[2] Jonathan Edwards, “A Divine and Supernatural Light” in Problems in American Thought Reader, ed. David J. Voelker (University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, 2006), 2.

[3] Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Divinity School Address,” in Problems in American Thought Reader, 2.

Creative Commons License
Writing Handbook for History & Humanities by David J. Voelker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.