By Joel Porte
Emerson and Thoreau are the main celebrated abnormal couple of nineteenth-century American literature. showing to play the jobs of benign mentor and keen disciple, they could even be visible as sour opponents: America’s superior literary statesman, protecting of his acceptance, and an bold and infrequently refractory protégé. the reality, Joel Porte continues, is that Emerson and Thoreau have been complementary literary geniuses, together inspiring and inspired.
In this booklet of essays, Porte makes a speciality of Emerson and Thoreau as writers. He lines their person achievements and their issues of intersection, arguing that either males, ranging from a shared trust within the significance 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 e-book that may entice all readers drawn to the writings of Emerson and Thoreau.
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Additional resources for Consciousness and Culture: Emerson and Thoreau Reviewed
Predictably, in view of the compensatory biases of modernist criticism, they found a “new” Emerson whose complexities belied that older optimistic 28 THE PROBLEM OF EMERSON all-American aphorist once dear to captains of industry, genteel professors of literature, and hopeful preachers in search of suitably uplifting remarks. Like the other great ﬁgures of the American Renaissance, Emerson was now found to be one of us—as richly evasive and enigmatic a ﬁgure, almost, as Hawthorne, or Melville, or Dickinson.
19 It is hard to know where to begin unraveling the complications of Thoreau’s wit here. He starts, of course, by hyperbolically verifying the justice of Emerson’s metaphoric representation of himself as an “ardent eye,” but then Thoreau’s humor turns into an expression of anxiety over the danger that this “undisputed seer” may permanently outshine all other Concord literary lights; whence Thoreau accuses the local Apollo of being too clever and smooth in his inspirational music. “Let epic trade-winds blow,” exclaims the younger man with over-inﬂated metaphoric grandeur, commencing to aim his wit 26 T R A N S C E N D E N TA L A N T I C S against himself as his attack on Emerson turns into a comic advertisement for Ulysses D.
My experience has been that when these topics are mentioned the mind closes, one’s attention wanders. Similarly, the now standard debate over Emerson’s presumed inability, or refusal, to confront evil (usually capitalized) has had the unfortunate effect ﬁrst of making him seem shallow compared, say, to a Hawthorne or a Melville; and, second and more importantly, it has frequently shifted discussions of Emerson to a high plane of theological or metaphysical argument where one’s ordinary sense of reality, and the powers of practical criticism, falter in pursuit.