Jazmine Medeiros Professor JohnsonAmerican literature December 9, 2017 Ralph Waldo Emerson “Ralph Waldo Emerson—a New England preacher, essayist, lecturer, poet, and philosopher—was one of the most influential writers and thinkers of the nineteenth century in the United States.” (ikhsdh) Emerson is also famous for being the first to enlarge the domestic audience for classical Asian and Middle Eastern works. Emerson’s reader gained their first exposure to non-Western modes of thinking, metaphysical concepts, and sacred mythologies. He had also shaped the views of American writers and thinkers to how they approach the huge cultural resources of Asia and Middle East.
Most importantly, he was the major figure for the American Transcendentalist movement, which he so proudly led. Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of William and Ruth Emerson. William Emerson was a clergyman, like most of the men in the family were.
Growing up his first contact with the non-Western world came from the merchandise that came in to the Boston harbor from the India Wharf. India Wharf was an Indo-Chinese trade that flourished in New England after the Revolutionary War. His father was the first person who introduced him to the writings of the non-Western world.
Emerson had attended Boston Latin School, and later attended Harvard University, which he graduated in 1821. During his time at Harvard, he began practicing writing about Eastern life. He named his personal journal, “Wide World.” Which was his personal journal of the many poems, and writing pieces had obtained over the years. After Harvard University he attended Harvard School of Divinity, and his passion for non-Western subject decreased.
Emerson was also licensed as a minister in 1826, and ordained to the Unitarian church in 1829. In later life, he married Ellen Tucker in 1829. She died of tuberculosis in 1831, and Emerson didn’t take the news lightly. The death of his wife added to his crisis of faith, and this caused him to resign from the clergy.
Emerson traveled a lot throughout his life. In 1832, he traveled to Europe, and that is where he met many literary figures. This included Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth. When he had returned home in 1833, he had begun his lecturing. Emerson’s topics of his lectures focused on spiritual experience and ethical living. Emerson’s lecturing career lasted for about fifty years. He eventually moved to Concord, Massachusetts, and in 1835 is where he married his second wife named Lydia Jackson. In 1836 Emerson published his first book, Nature, the first major statement of his mature philosophy.
Emerson’s is most known for leading the American Transcendentalist movement. This means a group of people have accepted the ideas not as a religious belief, but in a way that understands life and relationships. “These writers shared a key belief that each individual could transcend, or move beyond, the physical world of the senses into deeper spiritual experience through free will and intuition.” (khfih) They also believed that God was not remote and unknowable. Believers understood God through looking unto their own souls, and by feeling their own connection to nature.
In the 1840’s Emerson was very productive during this time. Emerson had founded the literary magazine, The Dial, which he had also co-edited. He had published two volumes of essays in 1841 and 1842. The essays were his lectures which he had transferred to print.
His best known essays Emerson had published included “Self-Reliance,” “Friendship” and “Experience.” Due to the publication, he emerged as a trans-Atlantic literary celebrity. During the time of his publication of his essays, Emerson had also began publishing poems. His poems were written from his readings of Eastern literature. Emerson once again had surprised many people when he published a long essay, “Persian Poetry,” in 1858.
He did this to introduce American readers to an unfamiliar poetic tradition. Emerson had drawn parallels between Persian poetry and Homeric poetry. He had also included English ballads and the work of William Shakespeare. After the publication, he had translated over sixty-four pieces into English. The original poems were German or Persian. To continue his writings about the Eastern world he had traveled to England, and soon after Egypt with his daughter. After ten years of exploring the Eastern world he had returned to Concord, Massachusetts, and later died on April 27, 1882. Emerson’s legacy was a seminal figure of modern American Orientalism.
The public gave him the nickname, the Sage of Concord, which became the voice of the intellectual culture in the U.S. He had led the American Transcendentalist group. In all his works, he had encouraged his readers to live their own lives, and not someone else’s. He encouraged many individuals on their original relation to god, and family. His works philosophy, essays, and poems are considered major works in American literature. Emerson is known for doing the impossible in American literature, he had redirected the way people wrote and expressed themselves.
This was the reason so many authors we still know today were influenced by Emerson. They had followed his steps of his writing style, which they used to create pieces we still analyze and read today. He influenced Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, T.S. Eliot, and Robert Frost. These great writers have impacted the lives of many Americans during their time, and Emerson had helped geared them towards that direction. Even today Emerson and the many authors who followed in his steps are still admired. Emerson’s writing of romance, freedom, individuality had stuck with so many people.
Today, Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered the major American philosopher of the nineteenth century. His choice of words, writing style, or the message behind it has continued to influence the lives of many Americans. Works Cited Brewton, Vince. “Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).
” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, www.iep.utm.edu/emerson/#H3.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson.” Biography.com, A Networks Television, 2 Apr. 2014, www.biography.
com/people/ralph-waldo-emerson-9287153. “Ralph Waldo Emerson.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 2017, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/ralph-waldo-emerson.