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"Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803–1882)." World Poets.
had claimed that education, reflection, and self-cultivation lead us to invert "the vulgar views of nature, and brings the mind to call ... that real, which it use[d] to call visionary." Now Emerson pushes one step further, poetry is "the science of the real," which is to say that it is not concerned so much with the material or the phenomenal as it is with underlying laws. Emerson had made this stand clear in earlier essays, but in "The Poet" he discusses more fully the poet's use of language. The poet must not only use words, but he must be able to use things--nature--as a language. "Nature offers all her creatures to him as a picture language," Emerson says. "Things admit of being used as symbols, because nature is a symbol, in the whole and in every part." If the student asks what nature is symbolic of, the answer is, symbolic of the human spirit. "The universe is the externalization of the soul." This idea, too, had been said by Emerson before, though not with such epigrammatic authority. What really happens in poetic practice is suggested by Emerson when he says, "the world being thus put under the mind for verb and noun, the poet is he who can articulate it." What the poet realizes is that not only words and things, but "we are symbols, and inhabit symbols."
At the end of August, as part of the commencement ceremonies for the Harvard class that included , Emerson delivered to the Phi Beta Kappa Society an address on the American scholar. Often hailed in 's phrase as our "intellectual declaration of independence," did indeed suggest that "our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close." He insisted that "we have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe." But the address is not primarily, or even strongly, nationalistic. Emerson calls for the self-reliance of the individual, of whatever nationality. "The American Scholar," as the Phi Beta Kappa oration is popularly known, is one of Emerson's most successful, most effective literary statements. It sparkles with good writing, and it leans strongly on common sense and on the ethical and practical aspects of literary activity. He defines "scholar" broadly to include everyone we would class as student or intellectual, but Emerson goes further, trying to identify that aspect of any and all persons which engages in thought. The scholar is "Man Thinking" (as the address was retitled in 1844), which he sharply distinguishes from the specialist, the "mere thinker," who is no longer a whole person.
Self-reliance is its aversion" (Emerson, 21).
There is more in the essay on the origin of words. "The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture," Emerson says, in a passage that was noted by Richard Trench, the English author who first suggested the idea of the . "Language is fossil poetry," Emerson explains, saying that "Language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin." Coleridge had linked genius to organic form, saying genius was the mind's "power of acting creatively under laws of its own origination." Emerson now links genius with the revival and renewal of language. "Genius is the activity which repairs the decays of things," he says, and the epigrammatic force of his own language pushes back against entropy itself.
Emerson is here talking about the concept of "organic form" as opposed to "mechanic form." The distinction was clearly made by . "The form is mechanic, when on any given material we impress a pre-determined form, not necessarily arising out of the proportions of the material--as when to a mass of wet clay we give whatever shape we wish it to retain when hardened." Thus, for most modern poets, to use a sonnet form is to use mechanic form. "The organic form, on the other hand, is innate; it shapes as it developes, itself from within, and the fullness of its development is one and the same with the perfection of its outward form." Emerson's own essays grew organically, and both 's and 's can be seen as examples of the organic form here described. In Emerson's doctrine of forms, the form should follow from the nature of the evolving material. In Emerson's terminology, form depends on soul.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 in Boston (Cayton).
During the 1800’s, Transcendentalism blossoms with the help of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson, they all express their beliefs through their writings which consists of self reliance, love of nature, and “Carpe Diem”....
From December 1836 to March 1837 Emerson gave his first series of independent lectures, the first that is, that he designed himself and gave under his own auspices. It was called the Philosophy of History, and it was a very important series for Emerson, since out of it evolved the great essays on "History" and "Self Reliance" that he would publish in his first volume of in 1841. There is also a lecture on "Literature" in the Philosophy of History series, given in January 1837. The general theme of the series is stated in the introductory lecture: "We arrive early at the great discovery that there is one Mind common to all individual men; that what is individual is less than what is universal; that those properties by which you are man are more radical than those by which you are Adam or John; than the individual, nothing is less; than the universal, nothing is greater; that error, vice, and disease have their seat in the superficial or individual nature; that the common nature is whole." Literature, then, is the written record of this mind, and in one important sense literature is always showing us only ourselves. This lecture contains Emerson's most extreme--and least fruitful--statement of his idealist conception of literature. He contrasts art with literature, explaining that while "Art delights in carrying a thought into action, Literature is the conversion of action into thought." In other words, "Literature idealizes action." In an abstract sense this may be so, but Emerson is generally at his best when he sees literature moving us toward action, not away from it. In another place this lecture has a very valuable comment on how literature is able to reach into our unconscious. "Whoever separates for us a truth from our unconscious reason, and makes it an object of consciousness, ... must of course be to us a great man." And there is also a rather uncharacteristic recognition of what Gustav Flaubert would call . "The laws of composition are as strict as those of sculpture and architecture. There is always one line that ought to be chosen, one proportion that should be kept, and every other line or proportion is wrong.... So, in writing, there is always a right word, and every other than that is wrong."
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"Emerson: The Self-Reliance of American Romancism." In , pp.
Emerson and the Virtue of Self-RelianceTwentieth-century Americans have frequently looked to Europe forcultural leadership, to learn what is "modern" and "progressive." In the 19th-century, however, Americans often saw as the vanguard of modernity and progress.
"Emerson: The Ambivalence of His Self-Reliance," , 18 (1983): 98-107.
Ralph Waldo Emerson argues in his essay "Self-Reliance" that we should all follow our own minds. Don't let anyone tell you what to do… not even Thoreau.
"Emerson's 'Self-Reliance.'" , 53:2 (1995 Winter), 81-82.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is all about individualism, and we can see it in these paragraphs from his essay. According to him, we should all try to return to the state of innocence of children. That's because kids don't sit around and obsess about what people think of them. They follow their own minds. They're independent, and they have strong opinions: they love things or they hate things.
"Emerson's 'Self-Reliance.'" , 55:1 (1996 Fall), 19-22.
Alexis de Tocqueville analyzed the pitfalls of individualism when he wrote"Democracy in America," while Ralph Waldo Emerson, in"Self-Reliance," praised the diversity, nonconformity, andindividualism of Americans.
"Emerson's Self-Reliance." , 55:2 (1997 Winter), 79-80.
Probably the finest 19th-century defense of the ideal of individualismmay be found in Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance." Like many social critics, Emerson faults others for failing tolive up to and appreciate the importance of their own ideals,giving modern readers a remarkable perspective on 19th-centuryAmerican culture.
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