Ralph Waldo Emerson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I cannot imagine any other author doing for me just what the essays of Emerson did.
As an essayist Emerson was a master of style. "Emerson is God," declared the literary theorist Harold Bloom once, and testified with this the importance of Emerson to American literature. Many of his phrases have long since passed into common English parlance: 'a minority of one', 'the devil's attorney', 'a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds'. His essays have speech-like characteristics and a prophetic tone, a sermon like quality, often linked to his practice as a Unitarian minister. Emerson's aim was not merely to charm his readers, but encourage them to cultivate 'self-trust', to become what they ought to be, and to be open to the intuitive world of experience. In his essay , Emerson advised to avoid mediocrities: "Be sure, then to read no mean books. Shun the spawn of the press of the gossip of the hour. Do not read what you shall learn..." Emerson encouraged American scholars to break free of European influences and create a new American culture. He had formulated this idea in the mid-1830's in a Phi Beta Kappa address, which Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.) hailed as "our intellectual Declaration of Independence."
The civil rights movement, for instance, forced much debate and discussion of issues of race, and the personal essay was a form particularly suited to testimony, witness, and stirring anecdote. During the 1960s leaders of the civil rights movement such as Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–68), Eldridge Cleaver (1935–), and George Jackson (1941–71) used the essay to advance the cause. The intersection of the women’s movement with the civil rights movement resulted in several new voices that focused on the interconnectedness of racism and sexism, among them Alice Walker (1944–), Angela Davis (1944–), Toni Morrison (1931–), and Audre Lorde (1934–92). Other struggles for democratic rights during this period have led to essays emerging from communities that had not normally been associated with the form in the past. Among these new voices are Maxine Hong Kingston (1940–), Richard Rodriguez (1944–), Judith Ortiz Cofer (1952–), Gary Soto (1952–), Leslie Marmon Silko (1948–), and Naomi Shihab Nye (1952–). The success of many of these movements has led to the establishment of new areas of specialization within the academy, the recovery of lost texts, and the insertion of new voices into the canon of Western literature. The backlash against these changes during the Reagan years led to the culture wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which a number of minority academics made names for themselves while using the personal essay to argue their case; these included Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (1950–), Gerald Early (1952–), bell hooks (1955?–), and Shelby Steele (1946–).
Self-Reliance - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
As she became a more proficient English speaker and addressed audiences beyond the immigrant communities of the eastern seaboard, Goldman became increasingly a spokesperson for the reforms she believed were necessary to an emancipated, fully realized humanity. At the same time she embedded the ideals of European anarchism in the rich individualist tradition of America’s native soil—the revolutionary pamphlets of the insurrectionist patriot Tom Paine, the antipathy to the state and its liberty-crushing laws of the transcendentalist essayist Emerson, and, above all, the defiant individualism of Henry David Thoreau, whom Goldman called “the greatest American anarchist” (, 56).I had begun work on it, as everyone had to, in spring of my junior year, and did that by going through every single quotation book in the Reference Section of the university library, and typing up all the ones I liked, even the ones I only vaguely liked, and then arranging them thematically, and then putting them in an order than made sense in terms of idea-cohesiveness, even though the style and voice was, of course, constantly changing. This was before there were such extensively developed quote collections on the Web, and even still, I love books! You could actually say that that “thesis” itself, that compendium of romantic and passionate sentiments from the universe of literature, was the framework, scaffolding, or skeleton of which this website is the meat and muscle. In his tribute to the 16th-century French inventor of the essay, Michel de Montaigne, the American essayist Emerson said: