This very controversial poem, "The Sphinx" written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, displays the religious aspects of his life, but also the mystery and sorrow of his life.
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.
This book is the complete essays and lectures of ralph waldo emerson
We develop an opinion of what makes a person “great.” In the well-known essay “Self-Reliance”, Ralph Waldo Emerson provides a beautiful way of approaching these choices, and he reveals a very inspiring set of values centralized around going through life answering only to yourself....
Ralph Waldo Emerson - Virginia Commonwealth …
In August 1835 Emerson delivered a lecture to the sixth annual meeting of the American Institute of Instruction in Boston "On the Best Mode of Inspiring a Correct Taste in English Literature." In strong contrast to the starchy, neoclassical title, the surviving pages of this talk, published in (volume one, 1959), emphasize the idea that a reader must approach a text with sympathy, empathy, openness, and a willingness to try out the author's point of view. It is, he says, a major principle "that a truth or a book of truths can be received only by the same spirit that gave it forth." This notion is very different from learning a few rules or current ideas and then judging works of literature by whether they conform to those rules and ideas. Emerson also makes a distinction between types of reading and warns us "reading must not be passive." An active reader is one who engages fully with the text. "As we say translations are rare because to be a good translator needs all the talents of an original author so to be a good reader needs the high qualities of a good writer." Above all the reader is to remember that books and poems are not ends in themselves. They convey truths or wisdom, they stand for and convey to us things that exist in nature. "I should aim to show him [the young reader] that the poem was a transcript of Nature as much as a mariner's chart is of the coast."
Waldo--who dropped the "Ralph" in college--was ..
Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman were three authors during this time that wrote about an idea that would later become the theme of many papers, discussions and lectures, Wakefulness.