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Nineteenth-Century Prose

Articles from Vol. 30, No. 1-2, Spring-Fall

A Common Emerson: Ralph Waldo in an Ethnohistorical Context
The work of this essay is to denaturalize or de-universalize (render local) the tradition of reading Emerson from Parrington to the present. In attempting this work, the essay asks a fundamental question: What are the limits of Emerson's thinking,...
"As Planets Faithful Be": The Higher Law of Science in Emerson's Antislavery Lectures
Emerson's antislavery lectures of 1844-1863 would seem an unlikely place to look for Emerson's scientific ideology, but in fact these lectures are some of that ideology's most compelling expressions. To combat the American crime of slavery, Emerson...
Democracy, Aesthetics, Individualism: Emerson as Public Intellectual
The most interesting recent criticisms of Emerson's political activism in the cause of abolition have focused on three linked failures: his elitism and his failure to become an organic representative of the American people; his association of ethics...
Emerson, American Democracy, and "Progress of Culture"
Emerson's second Phi Beta Kappa Address at Harvard, now little known, was delivered in 1867, and has been regarded both in his day and ours as a conspicuous failure. In "Progress of Culture" Emerson spoke as a prominent, even revered, public figure,...
Emerson and the Aesthetic Philosophy of Language
This essay argues that Emerson developed his theory of language in response to the aesthetic tendencies strongly affecting eighteenth and nineteenth-century philosophical thought in general and philosophy of language in particular. Like most linguistic...
Emerson and the Refounding of America
This essay attempts to contribute to the current debate over Emerson's "dilemma" as a public intellectual increasingly, and somewhat reluctantly, drawn into what he himself calls "turmoils of the earth" in the essay "Experience." Synthesizing recent...
Emersonian Transparency and the Anatomy of Crystal
In this essay, I meditate on the riddle of Emersonian transparency, mainly as it appears in Nature. Not pretending to solve the enigma, i offer a fresh perspective from which to study its difficulties. This context is Emerson's interest in crystal...
Emerson's Geographical Imagination: Private Journeys of Grief and Healing through the American Landscape
The historicizing tendency in contemporary criticism of Emerson often leads scholars to interpret the American landscapes in his writing as pointedly political: Emerson is seen as complicit in American imperialism. This paper balances those interpretations...
Emerson's Walden
Walden will always be associated with Henry Thoreau. It should also be associated with Emerson. Everyone knows that Thoreau built his cabin on Emerson's land at Walden Pond; it is less often recalled that Emerson not only owned land out there (which...
Introduction: Emerson Bicentenary Essays
This introduction examines the fifteen essays from the perspective of three categories: those that are involved in constructing a new Emerson who generally displays more consistency and continuity than the model provided by Stephen Whicher in the early...
Looking Backwards: Emerson in 1903
America in 1903 was a place of power and powerful conflicts. The Captains of Industry had made America an economic powerhouse. A quick military victory in the Spanish-American War at the close of the nineteenth century had given the nation an empire...
Poetic Portals: Emerson's Essay Epigraphs
In a boldly unconventional structure, original verse epigraphs frequently preface Emerson's essays. Readers, however, most often ignore the epigraphs, and scholarship has given them virtually no extended consideration. I explore the generic and theoretical...
"The Best of Brahmans": India Reading Emerson Reading India
Critics in the past have tended to conceive Emerson's well-known interests in classical Hindu literature, philosophy, and religion as antiquarian and politically neutral. A close examination of his reading of selected Hindu texts, together with selected...
The Emerson Enigma
In "The Emerson Enigma" the thought of Emerson is interpreted as a form of perspectivalism. Three perspectives are examined in detail: transcendentalism, existential individualism, and fatalism. An attempt is made to show that transcendentalism, as...
The Opacity of the Initial: Deciphering the Terms of Agency and Identity in "Self-Reliance" and on Liberty
Emerson and Mill share a distinctive preoccupation with conceptions of the "self" and "individuality." This commonality is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in Emerson's "Self-Reliance" (1841) and the third part of Mill's On Liberty (1859), where...
What's the Use of Reading Emerson Pragmatically? the Example of William James
For those who see Emerson as a seminal figure in American pragmatism, 2003 marks not only the bicentennial of Emerson's birth, but a century since William James and John Dewey delivered addresses that constitute their most explicit public pronouncements...