In this absorbing and elegantly written biography, John Fea explores the conflict between Fithian’s deep connections to Cohansey and the Enlightenment.
Fea’s re-creation of Fithian and Beatty’s on-again, off-again connection will take its place among the finest accounts of early American courtship practices
The Way of Improvement Leads Home…shows how seismic philosophical upheaval profoundly shaped the life of an ordinary man far from the epicenter, (it) easily the most important study of early American Presbyterianism since Mark Noll’s Princeton and the Republic and Leigh Schmidt’s Holy Fairs. Perhaps Fea’s signal contribution is his nuanced reading of the relationship between the Enlightenment and Christianity.
Though firmly embedded in the particulars of the 18th century, the story Fea tells has resonance today. That is one of the many reasons I so love this book–Fithian’s problem is no less acute today for men and women whose education takes them geographically and imaginatively beyond their local communities… Here in the early 21st century we may flatter our postmodern selves by imagining that we have moved beyond the Enlightenment, now ironically criticized for its parochialism. But the tensions between cosmopolitan aspirations and local commitments are with us still.
This review is so satisfying because Winner clearly understands and elucidates exactly what I was trying to accomplish with this book.