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Grant number: FA-57970-14

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Margaret Abruzzo
University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0001)

Good People and Bad Behavior: Changing Views of Sin, Evil, and Moral Responsibility in the 18th and 19th Centuries

My planned book explores how Americans rethought wrongdoing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as many traditional frameworks for explaining sin--such as blaming passions, self-interest, or natural depravity--came under attack. Difficulties explaining wrongdoing helped drive an intellectual wedge between evil and "ordinary" sin; moralists contrasted good people’s "mistakes" with evildoers' intentional villainy. Historians have charted changing ideas about particular vices, but they have been less interested in shifting views of what constitutes a moral failing, why human beings commit them, or how people could understand themselves as flawed but not evil. By historicizing concepts of sin, my research intersects with questions in philosophy and theology about human nature, sin, and the problem of evil; with literary studies on seduction novels and other narratives of wrongdoing; and with interdisciplinary work on the gendered construction of morality.

Project fields:
Intellectual History; U.S. History

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2014 – 7/31/2015