Emerson's Literary Criticism

By Eric W. Carlson; Ralph Waldo Emerson | Go to book overview

rhetoric and literature, and to be at once poetry and music and dancing and astronomy and mathematics. I am present at the sowing of the seed of the world. With a geometry of sunbeams the soul lays the foundations of nature. The truth and grandeur of their thought is proved by its scope and applicability, for it commands the entire schedule and inventory of things for its illustration. But what marks its elevation and has even a comic look to us, is the innocent serenity with which these babe-like Jupiters sit in their clouds, and from age to age prattle to each other and to no contemporary. Well assured that their speech is intelligible and the most natural thing in the world, they add thesis to thesis, without a moment's heed of the universal astonishment of the human race below, who do not comprehend their plainest argument; nor do they ever relent so much as to insert a popular or explaining sentence, nor testify the least displeasure or petulance at the dulness of their amazed auditory. The angels are so enamored of the language that is spoken in heaven that they will not distort their lips with the hissing and unmusical dialects of men, but speak their own, whether there be any who understand it or not.

Essays: First Series, W 2:323-47; first published in Essays: First Series ( 1841).


Bacchus

"Bacchus" symbolically expresses Emerson's deep thirst for the wine of creative inspiration. Bacchus is elevated to a god of spiritual ecstasy in a transcendental communion with the epic origins and powers of the universe. It is an inspiration nourished by the springs that run deep under the continents and mountain ranges, by the sun and the oceanic streams, until from these primal energies the poet achieves godhood, both Dionysian and transcendent, in the power of his "remembering" insight. So inspired, he will, in his "dazzling memory" of ages gone, revive our consciousness of the long evolution of Man from primordial Chaos (the Unconscious). The promised evolution of Man depends, then, on the poet's Platonic Identity with the universals of life, with the Over-Soul as the

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Emerson's Literary Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Emerson''s Literary Criticism *
  • Contents v
  • List of Abbreviations vii
  • Introduction *
  • I- Art as Experience *
  • Beauty (1836) 3
  • Language 8
  • Art 14
  • The Poet 24
  • Beauty (1860) 45
  • II- The Creative Process *
  • Intellect 59
  • Bacchus 70
  • Merlin 73
  • III- The Art of Rhetoric *
  • Diction and Style 81
  • Art and Criticism 84
  • The Craft of Poetry 96
  • IV- Toward a Modern Critical Perspective *
  • Emerging Critical Concepts 103
  • Thoughts on Modern Literature 108
  • The Novel of Character vs. the Costume Novel 121
  • V- Writers and Books *
  • Europe and European Books 127
  • Literature 134
  • Preface to Parnassus 143
  • Chaucer 151
  • Bacon 156
  • Montaigne 159
  • Shakespeare 162
  • Milton 179
  • Burns 187
  • Byron 190
  • Shelley 193
  • Tennyson 194
  • Wordsworth 197
  • Carlyle 204
  • Coleridge 206
  • Dickens 210
  • Scott 212
  • Margaret Fuller 216
  • Hawthorne 219
  • Thoreau 222
  • Whitman 227
  • Bibliography 237
  • Acknowledgments 245
  • Index *
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