Anglo-American Antiphony: The Late Romanticism of Tennyson and Emerson

By Richard E. Brantley | Go to book overview

FOURTEEN
Experience and Faith

Experience and faith in The Over-Soul, in that the Over-Soul "contradicts all experience" and "abolishes time and space" (912), appear antipodal if not mutually exclusive, and the transcendentalism can be Platonic, for Emerson writes that "I desire, even by profane words, if sacred I may not use, to indicate the heaven of this deity," namely, the Over-Soul, "and to report what hints I have collected of the transcendent simplicity and energy of the Highest Law" (911). His belief that "the spirit of prophecy" is "innate in every man" (911) keeps far from the twofold view shared among Locke, Wesley, and Edwards that knowledge of God is no more a priori than any other kind of knowledge and that nothing is innate. Perhaps the most fundamental assumption of evangelical faith is its precisely experiential efficacy, and surely no evangelical would approve of the rhapsodic tone of apotheosis, whereby Emerson goes so far as to imply an equation between one's aspiring to and one's attaining to Godhead: "For, in ascending to this primary and aboriginal sentiment {of moral beatitude}, we have come from one remote station on the circumference instantaneously to the centre of the world, where, as in the closet of God, we see causes, and anticipate the universe, which is but a slow effect" (914). Thus The Over-Soul can seem as far as possible from empirical actuality and from evangelical idealism. Of all the critics whom I cite, only Richard Poirier analyzes The Over-Soul in terms resembling mine; in understanding the Over-Soul according to its "secularized versions" in both the genetic codes of today's science and the evolutionary theory of Emerson's day, Poirier compares it to William James's "primordial units of mind-stuff or mind-dust," which James represents as "summing themselves together in successive stages

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Anglo-American Antiphony: The Late Romanticism of Tennyson and Emerson
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Prelude ix
  • Theme and Variations 1
  • Exposition the First - The Method of in Memoriam 25
  • One - Introit 27
  • Two - Empirical Procedures 33
  • Three - Evangelical Principles 51
  • Four - Philosophical Theology 65
  • Five - Spiritual Sense 90
  • Six - Theodiceal Impulse 97
  • Seven - Set Pieces 106
  • Eight - Language Method 115
  • Nine - Intra-Romantic Relationships 127
  • Exposition the Second - The Method of Emerson's Prose 151
  • Ten - Introit 153
  • Eleven - Perspective-By-Perspective Understanding 160
  • Twelve - Religious Methodology 166
  • Thirteen - Suspenseful Subjectivity 177
  • Fourteen - Experience and Faith 193
  • Fifteen - Roots of Theory 204
  • Sixteen - The Play of Skepticism 211
  • Seventeen - Language Method 236
  • Recapitulation and Cadenza 245
  • Notes 277
  • Works Cited 313
  • Index 337
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