Thursday, March 11, 2010

Emerson and the Transcendentalists

With a strong interest in Emerson being shown, I linked a book review by Clark Gilpin from the Christian Century (1996).  Also, here is a bibiography on Emerson, Thoreau and Early American Transcendentalism.


  1. David Reynolds has written two books that look good. One is "Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography," the other, "Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville."

    I've heard nothing but good things about the first, although at 700 pages it may be more than anyone wants to take on. However, the other is 640 pages, so neither one is a quick read.

    If you haven't read Reynolds, the link below will take you to a discussion of politics and poetry:

  2. This would be a nice change of pace and direction.

    I'll contact "strether" and see if she might also be interested. Maybe even bo, the larch and/or barton might be interested in joining in.

  3. Of the two books, "Walt Whitman's America" is the most appealing to me, but I have long been a fan of Whitman's poetry. The 1855 edition of "Leaves of Grass" is simply great, and based on a glance at the index, Reynolds spends a good deal of time discussing it and the later editions.

  4. Or we could all read our own books -- that might be a fun way to cover a lot of information if someone could take the lead to keep us focused.

    I have American Bloomsbury, Emerson and the Eccentrics, and the Richardson bio.

    I also have Eden's Outcasts, White Heat, and A Summer of Hummingbirds that overlap those, none of which I've read but have wanted to. American Bloomsbury left me wishing I knew more about that group.

  5. I should add that my preference to start with would be for Emerson among the Eccentrics, since it's been on my list and bedside table forever.

  6. Carlos Baker's book received very good notices when it was published. He hadn't quite finished it when he died, but I've never read any negative reviews of it because of that.

  7. I could go either way. I love Whitman but then I also would enjoy reading more about Emerson and the Transcendentalists.

  8. Keeping with my academic readings, I'm (re)reading Malamud's A New Life at the moment, but will take a look at Baker's book and post some initial thoughts. Usually I love the books that don't go over well here, and hate the ones everyone else likes so take any of my initial thoughts with a grain or two of sand.

  9. Speaking of which.... my kind of book:

  10. Mortuary science?

    Not in your life. Check that - let's rephrase it this way - not for me! LOL!

    The University of Minnesota plays Minnesota-Duluth in ice hockey every year and contend for a winner's cup in that match. The cup was created by two former mortuary science students from each school. It turns out that not only do the schools compete in hockey, they also compete every year as to which will produce the better mortuary technicians!

  11. avrds -- An academic novel that has been getting more and more attention these days is "Stoner" by John Williams. You might want to add it to your list.

  12. Thanks! Haven't heard of it. Really enjoying Malamud. Some things never change.....

    Just started the opening of Baker, but so far it's very good. It's a nice idea of looking a man through the company he keeps. I think that's why I so enjoyed the Five of Hearts.

    Baker picks up Emerson in his 20s with the death of his wife, which seems a bit odd, but I think I know where Baker's headed.

    Emerson was overcome with grief to the point that he returned to the graveyard -- I think Baker says 18 months later (?) -- and opens his wife's casket. What a strange experience, which apparently Emerson noted in his diary but never wrote about after doing it.

  13. Mortuary science? Does sound gruesome, doesn't it.

    No, my interests are in the taxidermied animal/science exhibition side. But then, I totally see how bizarre that is, too!

    I'm going to try to submit a paper at an art history conference. I have to convince them first, however, that taxidermy is art....

  14. Stoner is one of those books brought back to life by the NYRB. And a Texas writer at that. Sounds perfect for my list!

  15. I just read the opening of the Richardson bio of Emerson. With very little evidence to go on, I have to say this may be the better book. (Plus, this one complements the other one he wrote on Thoreau.)

    He, too, starts with Emerson's visit to the corpse of his dead wife. But then he writes, "The act was essential Emerson. He had to see for himself. Some part of him was not able to believe she was dead.... We do not know exactly what moved Emerson on this occasion, but we do know that he had a powerful craving for direct, personal, unmediated experience. That is what he meant when he insisted that one should strive for an original relation to the universe. Not a novel relation, just one's own. Emerson is the great American champion of self-reliance, of the adequacy of the individual and of the importance of the active soul or spirit..."

  16. Perhaps I missed something - is it settled that we will read one of those Emerson books?

    What is the proposed starting date for the discussion?

  17. Seems that the forum is leaning in this direction. All we need is a title.

  18. That's part of the fun... the circling.

    Strether said she would like to join us when we decide on a title. She read Emerson among the Eccentrics years back.

  19. Have Strether send me an e-mail address at and I can make her a contributor, or she can simply follow the forum and make comments.

  20. Done! She may also lead us eventually to Henry James, whom I've just started reading.

  21. OK. I just ordered Baker's Emerson. Hope to get it real soon.

  22. I guess that settles it. Emerson it is. I will order a copy myself.

  23. Let's set the start for April 5. Should give persons time to get the book and start reading.

  24. I linked a site to his complete works in "Other Sites."

  25. Alibris lists a bunch of new copies of the paperback for $4.48. Here's the link:

  26. Professor Carlos Baker's obit:

  27. Thanks, Trippler. Heard from Strether that she may stop in from time to time.

  28. I read the first 150 pages or so of Emerson and the Eccentrics on the airplane. I always worry about bringing a book I haven't started in case it turns out to be a dud. But no worries on this one. Fascinating list of characters, and he tells the story well.

    I think I have a pretty good vocabulary but I did find myself wishing I had a dictionary along. I'll have to go back and look up some of his adjectives and verbs at some point.

    The Cheever book I read only picked up when they were all living in the same town, so this gives some of the depth I felt was missing in her book. Plus, now I really want to know more about Thoreau. What an oddball. Or, eccentric!

  29. Eccentric? Wait till you read about Jones Very - wierdest of them all!

  30. I know! That's the first time I'd heard of him. But he sounds like he was genuinely insane, whatever that means in that context.

  31. Most eccentric of them all:

  32. The Romany Girl

    The sun goes down, and with him takes
    The coarseness of my por attire;
    The fair moon mounts, and aye the flame
    Of Gypsy beauty blazes higher.

    Pale Northern girls! you scorn our race;
    You captives of your air-tight halls,
    Wear out in-doors your sickly days,
    But leave us the horizon walls.

    And if I take you, dames, to task,
    And say it frankly without guile,
    Then you are Gypsies in a mask,
    And I the lady all the while.

    If, on the heath, below the moon,
    I court and play with paler blood,
    Me false to mine dare whisper none,--
    One sallow horseman knows me good.

    Go, keep your cheek's rose from the rain,
    For teeth and hair with shopmen deal;
    My swarthy tint is in the grain,
    The rocks and forest knoww it real.

    The wild air bloweth in out lungs,
    The keen stars twinkle in our eyes,
    The birds gave us our wily tongues,
    The panther in our dances flies.

    You doubt we read the stars on high,
    Nathless we read your fortunes true;
    The stars may hide in the upper sky,
    But without glass we fathom you.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  33. Emerson's home:

    Letters & other photos:

    Lidian & Edward Waldo:

  34. Thanks, Trippler. Beautiful house.

    I'm into the section on the 40s now. An interesting time and such amazing people in one place.

  35. Thanks Trip! I added The Emerson Letters to Other Sites.

  36. There are some fascinating characters and anecdotes in Baker. I'm up to about p 200 and having fun with the reading.

  37. Federal Style -- so quintessentially New England. You would get the occasional balustrade or belvedere, but these houses were designed to be simple and honest in appearance.

  38. Do you want to keep the discussion in this post, or should we start with a clean slate?

  39. Let's start fresh at the top of the page so we can find it! Look forward to our discussion.