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The Cambridge Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson provides a critical introduction to pastor and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, author of Nature and The Conduct of Life. The tradition of American literature and philosophy as we know it at the end of the twentieth century was largely shaped by Emerson's example and practice. This volume offers students, scholars, and the general reader a collection of fresh interpretations of Emerson's writing, milieu, influence, and cultural significance. All essays are newly commissioned for this volume, written at an accessible yet challenging level, and augmented by a comprehensive chronology and bibliography.
Consideration of Emerson's writings without significant emphasis on his verse would in some ways produce Hamlet without the prince, for Emerson seems to have identified himself primarily as a poet. During his New York lecture tour of March 1842, he wrote to his wife Lidian of feeling alienated from and misunderstood by his dinner companions, the social reformers Horace Greeley and Albert Brisbane: 'They are bent on popular action: I am in all my theory, ethics, & politics a poet and of no more use in their New York than a rainbow or a firefly. Meantime they fasten me in their thought to “Transcendentalism” whereof you know I am wholly guiltless, and which is spoken of as a known & fixed element like salt or meal: so that I have to begin by endless disclaimers &explanations - “I am not the man you take me for.” (L 3: 18)'
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