American Scholar

“The American Scholar”
An Oration delivered before the
Phi Beta Kappa Society, at
Cambridge (Harvard College),
August 31, 1837
Called America’s “Intellectual
Declaration of Independence”
“The American Scholar”
Composed before “Self-Reliance,”
but APPLIES many of Emerson’s
ideas in “Self Reliance” to the
occupation of being a student.
Scholar is delegated as the
intellect of society
In “the right state”:
 Man Thinking
The scholar tended to become (in a
degenerate state):
 A mere thinker, or worse, the
parrot of other men’s thinking.
What do we accomplish by
studying nature ?
Knowing ourselves — the law of
nature is also the law of the
human mind.
What is the “next great
influence” on the scholar?
Books, because they are the best
influence of (way of knowing
about and being inspired by) the
What must “each age” do?
Create its own books, literature,
The Purpose of and
the Problem with Books:
Purpose: To inspire
The “grave mischief” of books
Because writing is a great act, we think
of the product as great, too, and start
worshipping it.
We think WE could never do any
BETTER and so we don’t TRY
The BEST Books
We look at them and think,
“This is just what I have always
The scholar MUST NOT be a recluse!
The scholar needs to
ACT — “Only so much
do I know as I have
 Experience is the raw
material for any creation.
The most difficult times teach us the most
“Drudgery, calamity,
exasperation, want, are
instructors in eloquence
and wisdom.”
Seize the Day!
Action — life— is the
raw material from which
the individual creates.
The scholar’s duty
To be “free and brave”
The scholar must follow the dictates
of his own nature and be a nonconformist.
Free from outside constraints and
brave enough to withstand society’s
Fear springs from…
The things on which American
scholars should concentrate
 The
common American person,
the everyday incident —
“domestication of the idea of
 The private life of the single
What about Europe?!
We should stop clinging
to it and start listening to