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Writing beyond Prophecy

Emerson, Hawthorne, and Melville after the American Renaissance

Martin Kevorkian

Publication Year: 2013

Writing beyond Prophecy offers a new interpretation of the American Renaissance by drawing attention to a cluster of later, rarely studied works by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. Identifying a line of writing from Emerson’s Conduct of Life to Hawthorne’s posthumously published Elixir of Life manuscript to Melville’s Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land, Martin Kevorkian demonstrates how these authors wrestled with their vocational calling. Early in their careers, these three authors positioned their literary pursuits as an alternative to the ministry. By presenting a “new revelation” and a new set of “gospels” for the nineteenth century, they sought to usurp the authority of the pulpit. Later in life, each writer came to recognize the audacity of his earlier work, creating what Kevorkian characterizes as a literary aftermath. Strikingly, each author later wrote about the character of a young divinity student torn by a crisis of faith and vocation. Writing beyond Prophecy gives a distinctive shape to the late careers of Emerson, Hawthorne, and Melville and offers a cohesive account of the lingering religious devotion left in the wake of American Romanticism.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

Writing beyond Prophecy begins with a relic, preserved thanks to my colleague Douglas Bruster, and still relevant thanks to a blind spot that literary studies of the “American Renaissance” are only just beginning to rectify: “A Monument to Melville,” in the form of a Times Literary Supplement review essay, ...


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pp. xvii-xviii

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Chapter 1. Writing after the Minister

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pp. 1-19

Commenting on Emerson’s early nineteenth-century America, Quentin Anderson remarks, “It was as if the primal inquiry on the part of each developing consciousness was shifting from some such question as ‘What role shall I be given?’ to another, ‘What world am I to possess?’” (4). ...

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Chapter 2. Emerson’s Call to Worship

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pp. 20-80

The year after resigning from his pastorship, Emerson records this solitary observation of the Sabbath: “I kept Sunday with Milton & a Presbyterian magazine. Milton says, ‘if ever any was ravished with moral beauty, he [Milton] is the man.’” Reflecting upon Milton’s pious boast, Emerson cannot refrain from adding, ...

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Chapter 3. Hawthorne’s Sermon

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pp. 81-126

Hawthorne’s career as a preacher was somewhat shorter than Emerson’s; understandably, the collected sermons of Nathaniel Hawthorne have received considerably less critical attention. Of course, depending upon how broadly one might define the “sermon” genre, Hawthorne’s sermonic output might be deemed quite substantial. ...

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Chapter 4. Melville’s Benediction

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pp. 127-178

Annotating his copy of The Conduct of Life (1860), Melville notices that Emerson “jumps into the pulpit, from off the tripod here.”1 As noted at the beginning of the chapter on Emerson, Melville’s marginal comment sheds light on a general movement of Emerson’s career around the time that he was composing the lectures that became Conduct, ...


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pp. 179-224


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pp. 225-246


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pp. 247-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780807147610
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807147603

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2013