A radical rereading of Emerson that posits African- American culture, literature, and jazz as the very continuation and embodiment of pragmatic thought and democratic tradition
Emancipating Pragmatism is a radical rereading of Emerson that posits African- American culture, literature, and jazz as the embodiment of pragmatic thought and democratic tradition. It traces Emerson's philosophical legacy through the 19th and 20th centuries to discover how Emersonian thought continues to inform issues of race, aesthetics, and poetic discourse.
Emerson’s pragmatism derives from his abolitionism, Michael Magee argues, and any pragmatic thought that aspires toward democracy cannot ignore and must reckon with its racial roots. Magee looks at the ties between pragmatism and African-American culture as they manifest themselves in key texts and movements, such as William Carlos Williams’s poetry; Ralph Ellison’s discourse in Invisible Man and Juneteenth and his essays on jazz; the poetic works of Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, and Frank O'Hara; as well as the “new jazz” being forged at clubs like The Five Spot in New York.
Ultimately, Magee calls into question traditional maps of pragmatist lineage and ties pragmatism to the avant-garde American tradition.
"An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man," Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote--and in this book, the leading scholar of New England literary culture looks at the long shadow Emerson himself has cast, and at his role and significance as a truly American institution. On the occasion of Emerson's 200th birthday, Lawrence Buell revisits the life of the nation's first public intellectual and discovers how he became a "representative man."Born into the age of inspired amateurism that emerged from the ruins of pre-revolutionary political, religious, and cultural institutions, Emerson took up the challenge of thinking about the role of the United States alone and in the world. With characteristic authority and grace, Buell conveys both the style and substance of Emerson's accomplishment--in his conception of America as the transplantation of Englishness into the new world, and in his prodigious work as writer, religious thinker, and philosopher. Here we see clearly the paradoxical key to his success, the fierce insistence on independence that acted so magnetically upon all around him. Steeped in Emerson's writings, and in the life and lore of the America of his day, Buell's book is as individual--and as compelling--as its subject. At a time when Americans and non-Americans alike are struggling to understand what this country is, and what it is about, Emerson gives us an answer in the figure of this representative American, an American for all, and for all times.
This long-awaited volume offers the general reader the heart of Emerson’s journals, that extraordinary series of diaries and notebooks in which he poured out his thoughts for more than fifty years, beginning with the “luckless ragamuffin ideas” of his college days.Emerson as revealed in his journals is more spontaneous, more complex, more human and appealing than he appears in the published works. This man is the seeker rather than the sage; he records the turmoil, struggle, and questioning that preceded the serene and confident affirmations of the essays. He is honest, earthy, tough-minded, self-critical (“I am a lover of indolence, & of the belly”), warm in his enthusiasms, a witty and sharp observer of people and events. Everything is grist for his mill: personal experiences, his omnivorous reading, ruminations on matters large and small, his doubts and perplexities, public issues and local gossip. There are abrupt shifts in subject and tone, reflecting the variousness of his moods and the restless energy of his mind.Drawing from Harvard’s sixteen-volume scholarly edition of the journals—but omitting the textual apparatus that makes it hard to read—Joel Porte presents a sympathetic selection that brings us close to Emerson the man.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is universally recognized as one of America's most influential authors and thinkers. Before achieving eminence as lecturer, essayist, and poet, though, he was a Unitaarian preacher. Emerson in His Sermons is the first major study of the sermons since the publication of The Complete Sermons of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Susan Roberson examines Emerson's ministerial career from 1826 to 1832, shedding new light on those early, crucial years in Emerson's personal and intellectual development.
Treating the sermons extensively as an autobiographical text, Roberson establishes that Emerson's years in the pulpit were pivotal and that his sermons are key texts in revealing the essential development of his thought. Central to Roberson's explication of the sermons is Emerson's conception of self-reliance, his invention of a new hero for a new age, and his merging of his own identity with that heroic idea.
Roberson focuses on Emerson's reaction to what was perhaps the most signifcant event in his personal life: the death of his young wife, Ellen, of tuberculosis in 1831, after only sixteen months of marriage. Roberson's correlation of the sermons written during that time with the complexity of Emerson's emotional and intellectual response to the tragedy of Ellen's illness and death is the most detailed and sophisticated treatment of that material to date.
Roberson understands Emerson's emergence from the ministry as his rejection of ready-made institutions and sytems of thought. Through her careful readings of the sermons, Roberson finds that Emerson's objective was less the translation of his life into writing than the translation of his life through writing. By considering the sermons in this way, Roberson is able to enrich our understanding of the private and passionte impulses of this seminal thinker.
Emerson in His Sermons offers the first real look at how the sermons fit into Emerson's own development and will have a far-reaching impact on Emerson scholarship. Anyone concerned with the cultural and religious history of America will find this book invaluable.
The emergence of photography in the mid-nineteenth century transformed ideas about how the self and nature could be pictured. Although the autobiographical potential of photography seems self-evident today, Sean Meehan takes us back to the birth of the medium when some of America’s preeminent authors began to think about photography’s implications for the representation of identity and the nature of autobiographical writing.
Both photography and autobiography involve a tension between disclosing and concealing their means of production: a chemical process for one, the writing process for the other. Meehan examines how four major authors—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman—were well aware of this tension and explored it in their work. By examining the implications of early photography in their writings, he shows how each engaged the new visual medium, how photography mediated their conceptions of self-representation, and how their appropriation of photographic thinking created a new kind of autobiography.
Examining the metonymic nature of photography, Meehan explores how the new medium influenced conceptions of visual and verbal representation. He intertwines these four writers’ reflections on photography—in Emerson’s Representative Men, Thoreau’s journals, Douglass’s narratives of slavery, and Whitman’s Specimen Days—with theories of photography as expounded by its inventors and observers, from Louis Daguerre and William Talbot in Europe to Oliver Wendell Holmes and Marcus Root in America.
As the first book to focus on the emergence of this new visual medium during the American Renaissance, Mediating American Autobiography shows us what photography means for American literature in general and for the genre most closely linked to it in particular. Because the engagement of these writers with photography has been neglected in previous scholarship, Meehan’s work provocatively bridges the study of two media and illuminates an important aspect of American thought and culture at the dawn of the technological era.
George J. Stack traces the sources of ideas and theories that have long been considered the exclusive province of Friedrich Nietzsche to the surprisingly radical writings of the American essayist and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Nietzsche and Emerson makes us see Emerson’s writings in a new, more intensified light and presents a new perspective on Nietzsche’s philosophy. Stack traces how the rich theoretical ideas and literary images of Emerson entered directly into the existential dimension of Nietzsche’s thought and hence into the stream of what has been considered a distinctively European intellectual movement.
Reconstituting the American Renaissance describes how Emerson and Whitman came into the period of their greatest productivity with different conceptions of the functions and political efficacy of the word in the world. It challenges Emerson’s position as Whitman’s necessary precursor and offers a cultural history that emphasizes the two writers’ differences in social class, cultural experience, and political perspective. In their writings between 1830 and 1855, the book finds contrasting conceptions of the relations between the “representative man” and the constituencies to whom, and for whom, he speaks. Reconstituting the American Renaissance opens up the canonical relationship between Emerson and Whitman and multiplies the historical and discursive contexts for understanding their published and unpublished works.
The great American thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson and the influential German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, though writing in different eras and ultimately developing significantly different philosophies, both praised the individual’s wish to be transformed, to be fully created for the first time. Emerson and Nietzsche challenge us to undertake the task of identity on our own, in order to see (in Nietzsche’s phrase) “how one becomes what one is.”
David Mikics’s The Romance of Individualism in Emerson and Nietzsche examines the argument, as well as the affinity, between these two philosophers. Nietzsche was an enthusiastic reader of Emerson and inherited from him an interest in provocation as a means of instruction, an understanding of the permanent importance of moods and transitory moments in our lives, and a sense of the revolutionary character of impulse. Both were deliberately outrageous thinkers, striving to shake us out of our complacency.
Rather than choosing between Emerson and Nietzsche, Professor Mikics attends to Nietzsche’s struggle with Emerson’s example and influence. Elegant in its delivery, The Romance of Individualism in Emerson and Nietzsche offers a significant commentary on the visions of several contemporary theorists whose interests intersect with those of Emerson and Nietzsche, especially Stanley Cavell, Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek, and Harold Bloom.
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