Consciousness and Culture: Emerson and Thoreau Reviewed by Joel Porte

By Joel Porte

Emerson and Thoreau are the main celebrated peculiar couple of nineteenth-century American literature. showing to play the jobs of benign mentor and keen disciple, they could even be noticeable as sour competitors: America’s most suitable literary statesman, protecting of his acceptance, and an formidable and occasionally refractory protégé. the reality, Joel Porte continues, is that Emerson and Thoreau have been complementary literary geniuses, jointly inspiring and inspired.
In this e-book of essays, Porte specializes in Emerson and Thoreau as writers. He strains their person achievements and their issues of intersection, arguing that either males, ranging from a shared trust within the value of “self-culture,” produced a physique of writing that helped circulate a decidedly provincial New England readership into the wider area of overseas tradition. it's a booklet that would entice all readers drawn to the writings of Emerson and Thoreau.

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Sample text

The Emerson we now see, I am convinced, has always existed; indeed it is the same Emerson whom William James was moved to praise as an artist. This Emerson’s interest and appeal reside in the imaginative materials and structures of his writing—in his tropes and topoi, his metaphors and verbal wit, in the remarkable consistencies of his conceiving mind and executing hand. What I am prepared to state categorically is that the familiar rubrics of Emersonian thought, the stock in trade of much Emerson criticism, though undeniably there, can be a positive hindrance to the enjoyment of Emerson’s writing.

2 Lowell’s description, despite its personal animus and precisely because of its splenetic sense of comedy, brings clearly before us some of the major impulses, as well as some of the important problems, involved in the ferment of the 1830s and forties. Crusaders burning to remake the world pinned their hopes on dietary reform or the removal of restrictions in dress; others saw the crass commercialism of the State Street bankers as the chief evil of the time. ” Lowell also reminds us of the strength of the communitarian impulse, the hungry search for meaningful society; and his facetious mention of Thor and Budh only underlines the fact that the Transcendental movement had its birth in a profound religious upheaval.

At Oneida the bonds of earthly marriage 14 T R A N S C E N D E N TA L A N T I C S were broken. Spiritualism proposed to break the bonds of death. The theme of death, which had been a deep preoccupation in the life of the pioneer, was repeated by these cults, with a fresh and happy outcome. Life was to be prolonged, the Millennium had arrived; in the state of perfection death might never come at all. Most of the new religious communities created almost overnight in the ’30’s and ’40’s agreed to release mankind from sin, poverty, or mortal care.

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