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

By Richard E. Brantley | Go to book overview

SIXTEEN The Play of Skepticism

I will test now the applicability of my argument to two essays in which it might not be expected to obtain, namely, Experience ( 1844) and Fate ( 1852). ( Emerson's tough-minded, "pre-Modern" essays also include Compensation { 1841}, Prudence { 1841}, Circles { 1841}, and Montaigne { 1850}.) Critics see Experience and Fate as emphasizing for the first time in Emerson's career the ordinary over the ideal; with regard to Experience, for example, Van Leer points out that "by so naming his essay, Emerson makes explicit what is implicit throughout the second series: that bracketing questions of noumenality, even of existence--the transcendentality of epistemology-- he now wishes to speak solely for our experience as empirically real."1 Experience, moreover, is seen as advocating an especially tough-minded empiricism, for Whicher associates the essay's usage of experience with empirical experiment,2 and Packer associates this same usage with Humean empiricism.3 Michael, for his part, associates Humean empiricism with both Experience and Fate,4 but Gayle L. Smith, on the other hand, reading Experience in the light of the famous Transparent Eyeball image in Nature, finds that Experience reflects the optimistic, "ideal" empiricism of Emerson's early career.5 And even Van Leer argues that the "source" of Experience "lies less in the empirical tradition, where the more representative term is 'impression,'" than in the optimistic German idealism of Kant, for whom '"experience' is almost literally the first word of the first Critique."6 I, of course, am especially intrigued by Gertrude Hughes's view that experience functions throughout the essays as it does for Paul in Romans 5.3-5: "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh

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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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