“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 past What must “each age” do? Create its own books, literature, etc. The Purpose of and the Problem with Books: Purpose: To inspire Problem: 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 felt.” The scholar MUST NOT be a recluse! The scholar needs to ACT — “Only so much do I know as I have lived.” 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. CARPE DIEM! 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 disapproval Fear springs from… IGNORANCE The things on which American scholars should concentrate The common American person, the everyday incident — “domestication of the idea of culture” The private life of the single person. What about Europe?! We should stop clinging to it and start listening to ourselves.