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Transcendental Resistance

The New Americanists and Emerson's Challenge

Johannes Voelz

Publication Year: 2010

A timely and engrossing critique of the New Americanists Johannes Voelz offers a critique of the New Americanists through a stimulating and original reexamination of the iconic figure of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Voelz argues against the prevailing tendency among Americanists to see Emerson as the product of an “all-pervasive scope of cultural power.” Instead he shows Emerson’s philosophy to be a deft response to the requirements of lecturing professionally at the newly built lyceums around the country. Voelz brings to light a fascinating organic relationship between Emerson’s dynamic style of thinking and the uplifting experience demanded by his public. This need for an audience-directed philosophy, the author argues, reveals the function of Emerson’s infamous inconsistencies on such issues as representation, identity, and nation. It also poses a major counter-argument to the New Americanists’ dim view of Emerson’s individualism and his vision of the private man in public. Challenging the fundamental premises of the New Americanists, this study is an important, even pathbreaking guide to the future of American studies.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

Series: Re-Mapping the Transnational: A Dartmouth Series in American Studies


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Title Page

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pp. ix-x

Indebtedness is difficult to measure. Perhaps as scholars we are what we write. In that sense those who have enabled me to begin and finish this book have allowed me to come into . . .


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pp. xi-xi

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pp. 1-15

Throughout the last four decades, the field of American Studies has been reshaped by various forms of revisionism. In the late 1960s, the intellectual history synthesis of the Myth and Symbol school became . . .

Part I | Emerson and Representation

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1 | The New Ameranists and Representation: Between Interpellation and Reification

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pp. 19-61

Before I begin my analysis of revisionist assumptions about representation, the New Americanists need to be placed within the history of American Studies. This will explain why the term remains difficult to . . .

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2 | Representing Potentiality

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pp. 62-104

“To understand Emerson’s writings, one must first see him at work as a lecturer,” the editors of the Later Lectures have stated with just conviction (LL, vol. 1, xx). My intent in this study is not to provide . . .

Part II | Emerson and Identity

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3 | The New Americanists and the Violence of Identity

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pp. 107-135

In chapter 1, I showed that the New Americanists’ understanding of representation is influenced most importantly by Louis Althusser’s theory of interpellation. According to Althusser, the individual . . .

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4 | Identity and the Parsimonious Recognition of "Friendship"

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pp. 136-172

“We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken,” Emerson assures his readers at the very beginning of his essay “Friendship” (CW, vol. 2, 113). How that which exceeds what is spoken relates . . .

Part III | Emerson and the Nation

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5 | New Americanist Turns: Empire, Transnationalism, and Utopianism

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pp. 175-204

When revising the American Studies paradigm of the Cold War era, New Americanists turned their attention to two related fields of inquiry that, in their perception, were foreclosed by the . . .

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6 | Emerson's Organicist Nationalism

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pp. 205-243

Emerson’s record on the issues of nationalism, imperialism, and racism is mixed: his statements are often contradictory, his opinions seem to swerve from one extreme to the other, and often he does not even . . .

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pp. 244-246

In order to attract and relate to an audience, Emerson had to partially affirm his listeners’ worldviews. But despite Emerson’s working within an ideological framework, the listening . . .


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pp. 247-297


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pp. 299-312


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pp. 313-322

E-ISBN-13: 9781584659488
E-ISBN-10: 1584659483
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584659365
Print-ISBN-10: 158465936X

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Re-Mapping the Transnational: A Dartmouth Series in American Studies
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OCLC Number: 694142674
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Transcendental Resistance

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Subject Headings

  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo, -- 1803-1882 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Transcendentalism.
  • National characteristics, American, in literature.
  • Transnationalism.
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