College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Full Title of Thesis or Dissertation

From typology to aesthetics in American literature

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree



American literature, typology, aesthetics, puritanism, Melville


This thesis traces changes in the use of typology in American literature from the Puritans through the twentieth century of American literature. In particular, this project takes a closer look at major works of John Winthrop, Mary Rowlandson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville in order to investigate how typology was employed by each of them and develops into modern symbolism. This thesis documents some stages in the origins of symbolism and its usage in American literature as the latter increasingly proclaimed stylistic independence from European intellectual traditions and became a highly admired form in literature. I show how religious typology in the Puritan times developed into aesthetics, for example use of symbolism, over the nineteenth century and culminating in Melville’s masterpiece Moby Dick. I investigate when typology was used, in what context, and for which purpose. To do so, I use extensive secondary research in addition to close readings.