A love of the marvelous


America’s nineteenth century cultural transformation from a traditional society, which was marked by common belief in supernatural intervention in everyday life, to a more materialistic society marked by a scientism, in which people predominately focused on naturalistic and mechanistic explanations of phenomenon, is well portrayed by William Gillmore Simms in his story, “Grayling: Or ‘Murder Will Out’” from his The Wigwam and the Cabin. The following brief essay will discuss Simms’ reflections about the rise of scientific naturalism (i.e., explaining phenomena according to mere natural and mechanistic causation, without citing supernatural intervention) and decline of supernaturalism (i.e., explaining phenomena in a manner that employs supernatural causal factors). In doing so, I will argue that Simms’ theses about the decay of morals and the arts resulting from the decline of supernaturalism can be elaborated upon by reflecting on the insights of Flannery O’Connor and the Southern Agrarians.

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