Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction

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pp. 1-20

The purpose of this book is to survey the literary art and criticism of the American Transcendentalists and to contribute in the process to a better understanding of the relationship between style and vision in all nonfictional literature.
Most of what the Transcendentalists wrote falls into this category of nonfictional literature, presenting a mixture of piety, poetry, and sententiousness that is neither art nor argument but...

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PART I. Background and General Principles

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pp. 21-22

The outstanding symbolic event in the history of Transcendentalism is Emerson's resignation from his Boston pastorate in 1832 in order to become a scholar-at-large. Most of the other Transcendentalists were also Unitarian ministers or in some sense lay preachers who came to distrust the institutional aspects of religion and were drawn...

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1. The Emergence of the Transcendentalist Aesthetic from American Unitarianism

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pp. 23-54

Since the Puritan ministers were traditionally the cultural as well as the religious leaders of their people, it was natural that their successors should participate actively in the so-called flowering of New England letters during the early nineteenth century. The best of the literary and intellectual periodicals which mark the first stage of this process were thus run and written...

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2. Transcendentalist Literary Method: Inspiration versus Craftsmanship

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pp. 55-74

We have witnessed the Transcendentalists' admiration for the vocation of the poet-priest. But what exactly does such an individual do? What sort of utterance is demanded of him, and what sort of discipline must he master if he is to achieve it?...

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PART II. The Living Word

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pp. 75-76

When it came to putting their literary theories into practice, the Transcendentalists naturally re1ied to a large extent on the models most readily available to them. The next two chapters describe two such models, conversation and preaching, which may be regarded as those forms of self-expression most familiar to such provincial and...

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3. From Conversation to Essay

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pp. 77-101

If a writer believes that inspiration is more valuable than expression and that it cannot be fully expressed in any case, he is bound to ask himself at times, "Why bother to write at all?" The Transcendentalists often did. Partly for that reason, much of the spirit of the movement was never recorded in a lasting and memorable form. As an organized movement,...

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4. From Sermon to Scripture

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pp. 102-140

One of Hawthorne's minor tales, "Passages from a Relinquished Work," presents the confessions of an itinerant storyteller who finds that he has an alter ego, a wandering preacher. The storyteller is a runaway from home, a novice at his trade, painfully self-conscious of his inadequacies, aware that he is a charlatan. Even as he is telling his most famous story (which...

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PART III. Word and World: Nature As a Model for Literary Form

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pp. 141-144

Students of American literature have often commented on its solipsistic tendency. Following Emerson's advice, many of our authors seem to have built their own fictional universes. Well before Yeats and Joyce invented private mythologies as a substitute for orthodox Christianity, Melville, Whitman, and Emily Dickinson had begun...

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5. Emerson and the Idea of Microcosmic Form

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pp. 145-165

Nature as a literary pursuit was an acquired taste for the Transcendentalists, sometimes never acquired at all. The majority of Transcendentalist ministers, for example, were content to celebrate "nature" and "cosmic unity" as splendid abstractions and perhaps dash off a few poems in their spare time on the "tender flush of vernal dawn" or the sublimity of...

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6. Catalogue Rhetoric

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pp. 166-187

No element in Transcendentalist style is more responsible for its appearance of anarchy than what is generally called enumerative or catalogue rhetoric-that is, the reiteration of analogous images or statements in paratactic form, in prose or verse. Emerson, Thoreau, A1cott, Fuller, Parker, and Bartol all habitually express themselves in a barrage of aphorisms. This...

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7. Thoreau and the Literary Excursion

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pp. 188-207

Most of Thoreau's works might be described as catalogues extended through time and space. His favorite form, as noted earlier, is the romantic excursion: a ramble ("Walking")or trip (Cape Cod) or sojourn (Walden) which takes on overtones of a spiritual quest as the speaker proceeds. Thoreau's later journals have the same rhythm. Like the conversation, the sermon, and...

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8. Thoreau's A Week

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pp. 208-238

Written largely during his years at Walden Pond, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers comes closer than any of Thoreau's later writing to an unguarded expression of his relationship to nature.1 In Walden the speaker is obviously much more familiar with his surroundings, but he is also more detached in his presentation of them: he begins and ends in polemic and the account of his experiences is subsumed within...

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9. Ellery Channing: The Major Phase of a Minor Poet

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pp. 239-262

To most students of American literature, William Ellery Channing II is known only as the protégé of Emerson, the friend and biographer of Thoreau, and the joke of criticism from Poe to the present.1 He has been cited regularly, even by...

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PART IV. The First Person

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pp. 263-264

In the last two sections we have approached Transcendentalist literature as inspired utterance and as a form of nature. The Transcendentalist was no more deeply interested in spirit and nature, however, than he was in the human consciousness which experiences their power and the relationship between them. "Persons alone interest...

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10. Transcendentalist Self-Examination and Autobiographical Tradition

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pp. 265-283

A recent critic of Melville has rightly remarked that "the American writer continually sings a 'Song of Myself.'"1 A number of American literary classics are autobiographies, from Benjamin Franklin to Richard Wright. In Afro-American literature, autobiography is the dominant genre; the tradition of the slave narratives of the nineteenth century has its contemporary analogues in Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X. Much...

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11. Emerson and Thoreau: Soul versus Self

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pp. 284-311

When comparing Emerson and Thoreau one inevitably wants to see the two men as representing the complementary sides of Transcendental individualismo Thoreau was self-reliant; Emerson was God-reliant. Emerson was diffident, Thoreau pugnacious. Emerson's essays seem comparatively diaphanous and impersonal; Thoreau's are concrete and crotchety. Roughly speaking, Thoreau seems to epitomize the colorful, abrasive,...

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12. Transcendental Egoism in Very and Whitman

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pp. 312-330

Jones Very and Walt Whitman would certainly have disliked sharing a chapter with each other, even though one of the Very family's cats, "an enormous grey woolly" animal, was named after Walt.1 Very's austere pietism and Whitman's metropolitan expansiveness do not mix. But they resemble each other in the lengths to which they go in experimenting poetically with the idea of the self. Emerson invented the equation which all such...

Index

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pp. 331-336