Emerson

“The American Scholar” While reading “The American Scholar,” by Ralph Emerson I found that the language and sentence structure is difficult to comprehend. Since it was written in the 1800’s the language is very different from the modern language. This made it very difficult to figure out who the audience is. Who is he speaking to and what is he talking about? At the very beginning it does say “An oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge.” This helps us assume Ralph is speaking to a group of college students, but why do they want to hear him speak? What is the purpose? Throughout the speech Emerson spoke about the three fundamental influences of the American Scholar: nature, books, and action. When he was talking about nature, at some point it seemed like he was speaking about religion. “There is never a beginning, there is never an end, to the inexplicable continuity of this web of God, but always circular power returning itself.” I was confused because when he was talking about nature, I thought he meant an American Scholar should go out and explore, find new things, expand your knowledge; not find yourself in a spiritual level. After researching Ralph Emerson, I found he was an American Transcendentalist Poet. Transcendentalism was a philosophical movement to protest against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality at the time. “ A core belief of transcendentalism is the inherent goodness of people and nature” (Wikipedia). Now knowing Ralph Emerson’s background gave another meaning to his speech. Going back and rereading it makes absolute sense. He was saying everyone needs to find themselves and realize everyone is “One Man.” Ralph was also a minister, which would correlate to all the religious language as well. He wanted people to understand we all have to start thinking for ourselves and not use old books for our ideas. We should use books to have the knowledge for creative ideas not to copy from others. When he talks about action being one of the fundamentals influences, he’s professor side comes out. He is letting everyone know we should not waste an opportunity, which is what every teacher wants out of their students. Overall, Emerson’s speech was the idea that to change the world, it is dependent on future generations.
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