2. (a) Emerson's writings are full of bold claims, of passages thatread like self-confident epigrams ("Life only avails, not the havinglived"; "Power ceases in the instant of repose"; "WhatI must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think"; "Travellingis a fool's paradise"). Yet such claims are not as self-evident asthey may appear when lifted out of context as quotations. Often they areasserted to be challenged, or tested, or opposed. Often they propose aposition that Emerson struggled hard to maintain in his own practice, aboutwhich he had considerable doubts or resistance. Select one such claim anddiscuss what work Emerson had to do to examine its implications and complexities.
(b) Emerson's essays are deliberately provocative--they push, urge,outrage, or jolt readers to react. What kinds of critiques of his age isEmerson attempting? And how? And with what sense of his audience's resistance?How do these function as self-critiques as well?
Whatever verdict time may pass upon the bulk of his poetry, Emerson himself must be recognized as an original and true poet of a high order.His latter years were passed in peaceful honor at Concord.
But the genius from which it came -- the swift faculty of perception, the lofty imagination, the idealizing spirit enamored of reality -- was the secret source of all Emerson's greatness as a speaker and as a writer.
As Emerson said, "As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect." The worse things get,
the harder people pray,
the worse things get.
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In his private journals over a few short weeks in the summer of 1832 Emerson inscribed such passages as these:-
I have sometimes thought that in order to be a good minister it was necessary to leave the ministry.
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An examination of the immediate background to this potentially dramatically life-altering change may well throw much light on the Essence of Emerson as an individual Human Being.
Make that decision primarily for yourselfbecause you can never really live anyone else's life." Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Loving him, believing in his powers, passionately desiring for him a successful career, but clinging with both hands to the old forms of faith from which he floated away, this solitary, intense woman did as much as any one to form, by action and reaction, the mind and character of the young Emerson.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1821, he took over as director of his brother’s school for girls. In 1823, he wrote the poem "Good-Bye.” In 1832, he became a Transcendentalist, leading to the later essays "Self-Reliance" and "The American Scholar." Emerson continued to write and lecture into the late 1870s. He died on April 27, 1882, in Concord, Massachusetts.
Emerson's concern with proposing the active power of language--bothspoken and written--in constructing an emergent culture that will be differentfrom the cultures of Europe is a central interest. His attention to whatit means to make something "new," and his concern about the influenceof the past, of books and monuments, mark him as an important figure inthe production of a "national" literature. Emerson's investigationof reading as creative action, his efforts to examine the authority andeffects of religious and educational institutions, help frame discussionsabout literature and education for subsequent generations. As a memberof the Boston cultural and religious elite of the early nineteenth century,Emerson reflects both the immersion in and allegiance to English cultureand the struggles of that American generation to become something morethan a patronized younger cousin. Emerson's tumultuous personal life--hisresignation from the ministry, the deaths of his young wife, son, and brothers,his own ill health-- tested his persistence and seemingly unflappable energyand make his advocacy of "practical power" not an abstract ordistanced issue.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of William and Ruth (Haskins) Emerson; his father was a clergyman, as many of his male ancestors had been. He attended the Boston Latin School, followed by Harvard University (from which he graduated in 1821) and the Harvard School of Divinity. He was licensed as a minister in 1826 and ordained to the Unitarian church in 1829.