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Ralph Waldo Emerson


Ralph Waldo Emerson, the towering figure of his era, had a ... Emily Dickinson, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, and Robert Frost. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, the towering figure of his
    era, had a religious sense of mission. Although
    many accused him of subverting Christianity, he
    explained that, for him "to be a good minister,
    it was necessary to leave the church."
  • The address he delivered in 1838 at his alma
    mater, the Harvard Divinity School, made him
    unwelcome at Harvard for 30 years.
  • In it, Emerson accused the church of acting "as
    if God were dead" and of emphasizing dogma while
    stifling the spirit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • Emerson's philosophy has been called
    contradictory, and it is true that he consciously
    avoided building a logical intellectual system
    because such a rational system would have negated
    his Romantic belief in intuition and flexibility.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • In his essay "Self-Reliance," Emerson remarks "A
    foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little
    minds." Yet he is remarkably consistent in his
    call for the birth of American individualism
    inspired by nature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • Most of his major ideas -- the need for a new
    national vision, the use of personal experience,
    the notion of the cosmic Over-Soul, and the
    doctrine of compensation -- are suggested in his
    first publication, Nature (1836).

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • This essay (On Nature) opens
  • Our age is retrospective. It builds the
    sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies,
    histories, criticism. The foregoing generations
    beheld God and nature face to face we, through
    their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an
    original relation to the universe? Why should not
    we have a poetry of insight and not of tradition,
    and a religion by revelation to us, and not the
    history of theirs. Embosomed for a season in
    nature, whose floods of life stream around and
    through us, and invite us by the powers they
    supply, to action proportioned to nature, why
    should we grope among the dry bones of the
    past...? The sun shines today also. There is more
    wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands,
    new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own
    works and laws and worship.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • Spiritual vision and practical, aphoristic
    expression make Emerson exhilarating.
  • Much of his spiritual insight comes from his
    readings in Eastern religion, especially
    Hinduism, Confucianism, and Islamic Sufism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • The British critic Matthew Arnold said the most
    important writings in English in the 19th century
    had been Wordsworth's poems and Emerson's essays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • A great prose-poet, Emerson influenced a long
    line of American poets, including Walt Whitman,
    Emily Dickinson, Edwin Arlington Robinson,
    Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, and Robert Frost.
  • He is also credited with influencing the
    philosophies of John Dewey, George Santayana,
    Friedrich Nietzsche, and William James.

  • Outline of American Literature
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