Ralph Waldo Emerson

04/24/20: When reading reviews and impressions of Emerson, it helped me to better understand his influence. Anthony Trollope is a good example of how Emerson was viewed in his time. Trollope describes his arrival in Boston and hearing that Emerson would be speaking. He explains that in England, Emerson was seen as “Transcendental, and perhaps even as mystic in his philosophy.” Simply the idea of him being so well known in another country is impressive for his time. George Santayana describes the audiences that Emerson attracted by saying “They flocked to him and listened to his word, not so much for the sake of its absolute meaning as for the atmosphere” Emerson was someone who not only knew what to say, but knew how to say it. He was a public speaker who made his audience feel like the atmosphere was good and they were able to take in all he had to say. By these reviews, it is clear that he attracted people not only with his writing, but with his reading and performance.

04/17/20: The readings this week have been different in subject matter than the previous pieces we have read by Emerson. I’ve found that his pieces such as The American Scholar and The Poet don’t seem to be trying to convince me of something, but instead simply laying the ground work of Emerson’s thoughts in a way that makes the reader think and want to know more. In New England Reformers and Politics Emerson makes it clear that he is urging the reader to rethink their beliefs on the subject, not necessarily only asking them to ponder it. In New England Reformers, Emerson encourages his readers to follow individuality from systems such as government and social norms. One quote reads, “his whole business of Trade gives me to pause and think, as it constitutes false relations between men;” This is to show that the day to day interactions we have may feel important, but to the ones running the show it is all the same. It is robotic and false, nobody is special in the systems of social norms we create. That is, unless we do not follow them.

04/10/20: Quotation and Originality is definitely my favorite of the Emerson pieces so far. While this idea was present in a few writings so far, this one dives deeper into one specific idea, which is that of originality in the presence of quotation. In my essay on The American Scholar, I focused on the aspect of the past and books that is present within that essay. The portion of his essay talking about the past is telling the reader that scholars before us influence the scholars today, a similar message that is found in Quotations and Originality. One quote that stood out to me in this essay was “What he quotes, he fills with his own voice and humor” because it tells us that it isn’t the information you use, but how you use it that creates originality. One of the best examples of this is the constant rehashing of the play Romeo and Juliet written by William Shakespeare. This is a story that has been retold time and time again whether it be the 1961 musical romance West Side Story or the 2011 animated film Gnomeo and Juliet. These two films follow the exact same formula as Shakespeare’s, two people from opposite sides falling in love, but they could not be any different from one another. This is because the people working on these films had their own “voice and humor” put into it just as Emerson stated in his essay. Quotation doesn’t make you original, but adding your own special flare certainly does.

04/03/20: The comments left by my peers on the various pieces we read this week can help me to better understand parts of the reading I did not before. I’ve notice Emerson to be a challenging author for me, I don’t always grasp exactly what he is trying to say right away. This is because these parts can mean different things to different people. For example, the quote “The beautiful rests on the foundations of the necessary.” from The Poet. To me, this quote is saying that to be beautiful, something must first be necessary. The foundation of a house in the necessary, without foundation no house, no beauty, can rest on it. However, an annotation written by that line says that things that are necessary find their own way to be beautiful. These are two different interpretations of the same line, and I don’t think either is incorrect. I think both hold their own merit and could be taken from that line.

I haven’t taken the time to respond to other people’s ideas on the annotating yet, I think that is something I want to strive for next week because the ideas other people have are very useful in formulating one’s own ideas on the reading.

03/27/20: This week I read Circles and The American Scholar by Ralph Waldo Emerson. After what I’ve read so far, I believe adjusting to Emerson’s language will be a bit of a challenge for me. The beginning paragraphs took me a couple reads to really grasp what he was trying to convey to me. Once I got passed the introduction, it allowed me to better understand the pieces in their entirety.

The American Scholar centered around the idea of inspirations and what brought people to literature. He uses a lot of philosophical ideas to drive his point home. One of the great influences he mentioned is the past and this is the one I want to focus on for my essay. The past brings wisdom and the greatness of other people.

Circles gives a philosophical view on nature. It centers around the idea of all the different circles one will find, such as the eye itself. It also continues the idea that there is no set way of things in nature. One of the quotes that shows this theme is. “There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile.” There are also lines mentioning that these so called fixtures will feel much less permanent when one figures them out for themselves.