By Joel Myerson
There isn't any query that Emerson has maintained his position as one of many seminal figures in American historical past and literature. In his time, he was once the said chief of the Transcendentalist circulate and his poetic legacy, schooling beliefs, and non secular techniques are vital to the formation of yankee highbrow lifestyles. during this quantity, Joel Myerson, one of many top specialists in this interval, has collected jointly gleaming new essays that debate Emerson as a manufactured from his instances. person chapters supply a longer biographical learn of Emerson and his influence on American existence, via reports of his notion of individualism, nature and ordinary technological know-how, faith, antislavery, and women's rights.
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Extra info for A Historical Guide to Ralph Waldo Emerson (Historical Guides to American Authors)
The challenge before him in 1835 was to bring order to the formlessness of the words he had been gathering; they required a unifying theme, a unifying vision, to hold them together before they could achieve a degree of finality in print. As the year opened, he shared this thought with his brother William: "I think when I have done with my lectures which begin shortly I shall write & print a discourse upon Spiritual & Traditional Religion, for Form seems to be bowing Substance out of the World & men doubt if there can be any such thing as a spiritual nature out of the carcass in which once it dwelt" (7 January 1835; L, 1:430-31).
The limits of the possible are enlarged, & the real is stranger than the imaginary. . I saw black swans & white peacocks, the ibis the sacred & the rosy; the flamingo, with a neck like a snake, the Toucan rightly called rhinoceros; & a vulture whom to meet in the wilderness would make your flesh quiverf,] so like an executioner he looked. In other rooms I saw amber containing perfect musquitoes, grand blocks of quartz, native gold in all its forms of crystallization, threads, plates, crystals, dust; & silver black as from fire.
In "Experience," Emerson's "world I think" is the world of the ideal, and to the extent that the men who people and act in that world are idealized representations of human character and behavior, they provided Emerson with a goal, an ideal, to aspire to in his own thought and ethics. The men who write, think, and act in Representative Men, on the other hand, are from "the world I converse with in the city," or in history, Emerson would say. They are subjects still evolving toward ideal thought and action; in them, the ideal is nascent, not actualized, so that as persons, as men, they are less important in themselves than they are suggestive representations of the potential humans have to achieve the ideal.