Saturday, October 26, 2019

Edification or False Idolatry in Emersons The American Scholar :: Emerson American Scholar Essays

Edification or False Idolatry in Emerson's The American Scholar  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚      Commencement speeches are customarily routine, pedantic, platitude filled, mildly inspiring lectures.   This description, however, was never applied to Ralph Waldo Emerson's oration, "The American Scholar," delivered to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard in 1837.   Oliver Wendell Holmes called this speech America's "Intellectual Declaration of Independence."   In addition to being a call for literary independence from Europe and past traditions, the speech was a blueprint for how humans should live their lives.   Emerson believed that the way to reunite with the Over-Soul was to become "The American Scholar."   He would do this by observing nature, by studying the past through books, and by taking action.   To become a scholar, humans also needed to develop self trust, espouse freedom and bravery, and value the individual over the masses.  Ã‚  Ã‚   Because this speech is so pregnant with discussion topics, an intrinsic part of the blueprint   may not catch the reader's attention or receive the analysis it deserves.   It delivers a message that contemporary humans still need to receive.   The startling, heretical admonition not to worship or make false idols of books and other objects of art, given in Emerson's "The American Scholar," demonstrates his belief in the vital necessity for self-reliance and active, creative reading and writing.   When he exhorts us to live as a scholar, as "Man Thinking," rather than "a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men's thinking" (1530), he is cautioning us against the false idolatry of book or Bible worship.  Ã‚   When Emerson introduces the second great influence on the spirit of the scholar, he at first praises books.   He expounds on "the mind of the Past,--in whatever form, whether of literature, of art, of institutions, that mind is inscribed.   Books are the best type of the influence of the past" (1532).   Emerson is saying that books are the best vehicle available to the scholar for studying the ideas and accomplishments of past men and ages.   But after affirming that "the theory of books is noble" (1532) and presenting an idealized way of reading and reusing books from past ages by which "business" and "dead facts" come out as "poetry" and "quick thought" when read and rewritten in a new age, Emerson   begins to show doubts that reuse is possible and states that "Each age, it is found, must   write its own books; or rather each generation for the next succeeding.

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