The American Scholar

While typically I can understand the context I am reading and the general direction the author is guiding me; I had to read and re-read to genuinely understand Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writing. He wrote in first person, in a didactic nature including many rhetorical and poetic devices, making this speech a very interesting read. After my second time through, the repetition throughout the speech really helped me understand his message. His use of rhetorical questions helped guide me, peeking my involvement in his text, much like a conversation.

emersonGenerally, I find metaphors and simile’s  helpful when reading; but several of the ones in this speech felt unfamiliar to me, which made grasping his intention’s behind the text difficult. This made me stop and really analyze the meaning behind each metaphor/simile.  While I found this to be a bit out of my comfort zone, I believe the amount of engagement he required from me to truly understand and contextualize, was beneficial, pushing me to grow as a writer and deepen my engagement when reading.

Another point of difficulty for me would be that he wrote in a very poetic manner. This effected the way I read it, very stop and go, particularly full sentences with substance I am not used to. I am not familiar in this era, which more than likely made it much more difficult to understand his writing. I can read poetry with ease usually, but I did find it challenging in essay form. I do think this speech was very well put together, especially how he engaged his audience.

Before reading, I researched Emerson on the internet and found an abundance of information about his character and beliefs; this assisted me in understanding the tone. Emerson established myself as a prolific poet, essayist, and lecturer. He was also a part of  American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century, called the Transcendentalist Movement. Transcendentalism system based on a belief all creation’s need unity, seeing the best in people, individualism, and the using of insight over logic. Another belief is that God does not have to reveal the truth because it is revealed intuitively through nature. Knowing a general idea of who he was and his beliefs was quintessential in my understanding, if I had not taken notes or researched who he  was – I would of have had an obscured idea of his speech.

References;

  1. biography.com/…/ralph-waldo-emerson-9287153
  2. poets.org/…tsorg/poet/ralph-waldo-emerson
  3. poetryfoundation.org/…/ralph-waldo-emerson

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