Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882)

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—
One of the major
writers of the mid19th century
the chief spokesman
of New England
generally known as
an essayist
Emerson’s Literary Achievements
Nature (1836)—the manifesto (the Bible) of the
American Transcendentalism. (It has an
Introduction and eight chapters: 1. Nature 2.
Commodity 3. Beauty 4. Language 5. Discipline
6. Idealism 7. Spirit 8. Prospects.) The major
thesis of the essay, in Emerson's words, is that we
should now "enjoy an original relation to the
universe," and not become dependent on past
experiences of others and on holy books, creeds
and dogma.
Emerson’s Literary Achievements 2
The American Scholar (1837) —Oliver Wendell
Holmes called it “our intellectual Declaration of
Independence.” He expressed in this work that
Americans should write about here and now
instead of imitating and importing from other
lands. He called on American writers to write
about America in a way peculiarly American.
Self Reliance (1841) This essay elaborates
further on the familiar Emersonian thesis - trust
Emerson’s Ideas on Transcendentalism
The soul is divine and identical in all men. We
have the same instincts and desires; there is a
spark of eternity in every man, and he possesses
within himself the means of all knowledge.
Nature is only another side of God, “the gigantic
shadow of God cast on our senses”. Every law of
Nature has a counterpart in the intellect. There is
a perfect parallel between the laws of nature and
laws of thought.
God is the Over-Soul, and thus has unobstructed
access to the Over-Soul. Every man may
commune with God if he wills.
Infants’ eyes
Standing on the bare ground- my head bathed by
the blythe air and uplifted into infinite space –
all mean egotism vanishes. I become a
transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the
current of the Universal Being circulates
through me; I am part or parcel of God.
To be great is to be misunderstood.
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron
Selected Reading of Self Reliance: Questions
for Discussion:
“Trust yourself”: every heart vibrates to that iron
string” is one of Emerson’s most quoted lines.
Cite examples from the first few paragraphs of
excerpt which gives Emerson’s reasons for this
belief in self-reliance and explain with example.
In what way, according to Emerson, does youth
exhibit force?
For Emerson conformity was not a desirable
characteristic for one to have. Do you think there
are times when conformity is desirable or even