“Listening to Emerson”

Part I

 After my second attempt in reading Emerson’s essay, using a couple of the reading strategies I picked up from “Listening to a Text,” clear meaning emerged within me. I initially read the first five pages of “The American Scholar,” and I was overwhelmed by unfamiliar words. On my second attempt, I implemented annotating, marking unfamiliar terms and references and I searched for visuals that enhance verbal content.

First, I went through the text highlighting unfamiliar words, opportunities for visual enhancements, and I used annotation in the columns. My understanding of the text improved by simply re-reading the five pages.

I proceeded to go back through the text, researching all of my highlights revealing definitions to unfamiliar words and phrases, but I also searched for images of these terms to give further enhancement of the verbal content.

Combining these three reading strategies, I have a deeper understanding of Emerson’s intentions for his essay. Noting organizational signals and identifying points of difficulty are two more reading strategies that could aid immensely when wading through tough literature as such.
Part II

After a brief search of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I learned that there was such an occupation as an essayist. Emerson was an essayist, lecturer, and a poet. He stood for transcendentalism along with individualism and he published essays and gave over 1500 public lectures in America in the mid-19th century. Among his essays were

While attending Harvard Divinity School, Emerson’s conviction for transcendentalism emerged. Transcendentalism is a spiritual or philosophical movement which appeared as a response to the general state of intellectualism and spirituality that was present in the late 1820s and 1830s in the eastern United States. A core belief of transcendentalism is in the innate goodness of people and nature; that people are at their best when they are truly self-reliant, not having to depend on others for stability. Emerson was a co-founder of the Transcendental Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1836 and published in their journal The Dial. Emerson wrote of individuality, freedom and manifesting one’s true greatness. In the 1840s, he was strongly influenced by Vedanta (Indian philosophy) and many of his writing had strong shades of non-dualism, or non-duality, a term and concept used to define various strands of religious and spiritual thought. Emerson’s principal concerns were collectivism, conformity, totalitarianism, and social engineering to name a few.


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