By Charles E. Mitchell
The paintings of Ralph Waldo Emerson has been synonymous with the yankee beliefs of self-reliance and individualism. This e-book explores that intertwined heritage, and the way Emerson has emerge as pointed out because the resource of either the easiest and worst within the American highbrow culture.
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Extra resources for Individualism and its discontents: appropriations of Emerson, 1880-1950
Du Boisto deny not only the significance of community but the relevance of social and political action altogether. Though Marr's analysis is provocative, it rests on what I think is a narrow reading not only of Emerson but of the other figures in his tradition. Two other studies have a more direct bearing on my own. 14 Emerson sets the tone for West's examination of the later thinkers, for it was he who most forcefully articulated American pragmatism's evasion of epistemology-centered philosophy by refusing its quest for certainty and fixed standards.
American pragmatism aims to "unsettle all things" and offers an ongoing cultural criticism that is "unashamedly moral" and ''unequivocally ameliorative" (45). West argues, however, that the liberating and democratic potential of this evasion has never been fully realized because the elite, bourgeois status enjoyed by each of the pragmatistsincluding Du Boisrendered the political and social implications of their work largely impotent. "15 I find much of West's account to be stimulating, particularly his effort to locate Du Bois within this broader intellectual context.
12 Such comments, however, were not intended to pass as final judgment on Emerson's career but rather to establish the context for a keener appreciation of his superior character. As the article in the Chronicle concluded, "his private life was so pure, his intellectuality so exalted, and his humanity so glowing" that the obscurity of his thought was of little matter. It was nonetheless difficult to eulogize Emerson without taking some measure of his considerable body of work, at the very least to balance the comments, vaguely imputed to the "uninitiated," that he was all moonshine and incipient madness.