The American Jeremiad: A Specifically American Genre

  • Vladana Ilić Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade
American jeremiad, symbol of America, Sacvan Bercovitch


This paper offers an overview of a "specifically American genre" – the American jeremiad, whose origins lie in the Puritan political sermon and which, with certain historical and cultural modifications, exists to this day. This overview, like most studies of this rhetorical form, is based on the work of Sacvan Bercovitch, who established it as a genre and offered the most exhaustive interpretation of its structure and meaning to date. The American jeremiad aims to homogenize the American community, and to steer it towards a common national goal, as reflected in its three-part structure: an evocation of the ideal/the ideal state of the community, a denunciation of its current state, and an affirmation of the goal and a vision of progress. As, according to Bercovitch, the American jeremiad despite historical and social changes retains the cultural hegemony of the symbol of America, later studies have tested this thesis by looking at political speeches, public addresses, American films, etc., through the concepts of the contemporary secular jeremiad, historical, Afro-American, film jeremiads, etc., and almost without exception conclude that this symbol, in one form or another, is alive and well.  


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Author Biography

Vladana Ilić, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade
PhD Candidate


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How to Cite
Ilić, Vladana. 2020. “The American Jeremiad: A Specifically American Genre”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 15 (4), 1119–1140.