A Political Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Political Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Political Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Political Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson

Excerpt

If Melville, Thoreau, and other major American authors have suffered significant periods of neglect, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) has never wanted for commentators. And yet from The Centenary of the Birth of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903) forward, none of the many collections of essays dedicated to Emerson has focused exclusively on his political thought until A Political Companion to Emerson. It is an auspicious moment for this volume. Not since the Civil War, when Emerson was adored in the North and reviled in the South, has there been such interest in Emerson’s politics. This new interest has been building since the last quarter of the twentieth century, when two things happened. First, political theorists and philosophers began to take Emerson seriously as a political thinker. Second, literary historians began to recover Emerson’s political writings and activities. This book reassesses Emerson as a political theorist in light of these two developments.

This introduction has three sections. Section 1 reviews the highlights of Emerson’s political writings and activities as recovered in what we call here the “new history.” The new history is the result of painstakingly careful research and has opened up to scholars a set of political writings and activities by Emerson that thoroughly debunk the old myth that Emerson’s project is exhibit one of the phenomenon Tocqueville most famously labeled “individualism”: that is, “a reflective and peaceable sentiment that disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of those like him and to withdraw to one side with his family and his friends, so that after having thus created a little society for his own use, he willingly abandons society at large . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.