A week after the epoch-making address to the Divinity School, Emerson gave another address, called "Literary Ethics," at Dartmouth, which, as Porte has noted, is undeservedly neglected. As the Cambridge address called for "a religion by revelation to us," so the Dartmouth address calls for a literature adequate to America. So far, says Emerson, "this country has not fulfilled what seemed the reasonable expectation of mankind." In painting, sculpture, poetry, and fiction, American authors had evolved only "a certain grace without grandeur," in work that was "itself not new but derivative."
In the introductory lecture for his 1835 series, "English Literature," Emerson offers a very broad definition of literature as "the books that are written. It is the recorded thinking of man." Later he excludes "records of facts," but even so it is evident that he meant the term literature to take in far more than just poems, plays, and novels. More important, in this lecture Emerson describes all language as "a naming of invisible and spiritual things from visible things," and he here first gives his famous two-part definition of language. First, words are emblematic of things; "supercilious" means literally "the raising of an eyebrow." Second, things are emblematic; "Light and Darkness are not in words but in fact our best expression for knowledge and ignorance." Since both words and things are emblematic, it follows for Emerson that "good writing and brilliant discourse are perpetual allegories." He concludes that "the aim and effort of literature in the largest sense [is] nothing less than to as events and ages unfold it, to record in words the whole life of the world."
People like Emerson and Thoreau were transcendentalism.
Emerson had been an admirer of ancient Persian poetry since the mid 1840s, though he only published his essay on Persian poetry in the 1876 volume . Quoting freely from Firdousi, Saadi, Hafiz, Omar Chiam (Khayyám), and others, Emerson expressed his admiration and helped create an audience for the special qualities of Persian verse. Emerson delightedly describes the open avidity with which the ancient Persians approached poetry. "The excitement [the poems] produced exceeds that of the grape." He admired Hafiz's "intellectual liberty" and his unorthodox, unhypocritical stance. "He tells his mistress, that not the dervis, or the monk, but the lover, has in his heart the spirit which makes the ascetic and the saint." Emerson admires "the erotic and bacchanalian songs" of Hafiz, and he especially prizes the way "Hafiz praises wine, roses, maidens, boys, birds, mornings and music, to give vent to his immense hilarity and sympathy with every form of beauty and joy." In this interest in the great Persian poets, we glimpse the Dionysian side of Emerson, the side that appealed so deeply, for example, to the young Nietzsche. It is an important side, without which we run the risk of missing the real Emerson.
Transcendentalism/ Emerson/ Thoreau ..
Emerson is the chief figure in the American literary movement called Transcendentalism, which was also a philosophical and religious movement. Transcendentalism is complex, drawing upon Platonic, Christian, Stoic, and Hindu thought, but its most immediate affinity is with German Idealism as worked out from Kant to Schelling. Indeed Emerson himself said in a lecture called delivered in December 1841, "What is popularly called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealism." He then described it: "As thinkers, mankind have ever divided into two sects, Materialists and Idealists; the first class founding on experience, the second on consciousness; the first class beginning to think from the data of the senses, the second class perceive that the senses are not final, and say, the senses gives us representations of things, but what are the things themselves, they cannot tell. The materialist insists on facts, on history, on the force of circumstances, and the animal wants of man; the idealist on the power of Thought and of Will, on inspiration, on miracle, on individual culture." Materialist criticism focuses on facts, on literary history, on the life and mind of the author and his or her intention, and on the text itself. Emerson's ethical and idealist criticism concentrates almost entirely upon the reader and his or her response to a text. Emerson is mainly concerned not with the fact of literary history but with the of literature, with its effects on the reader, and its power or lack of power to move us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson And Henry David Thoreau - …
But with careful study of their essays and poems, and understanding of the way in which they lived, Emerson and Thoreau become very different thinkers, with some very different thoughts and opinions.
A basic theme common in both Emerson's and Thoreau's writing is nature.