By John Carlos Rowe
Consultant works are interpreted in mild of the 2 nice political routine of the 19th century: the abolition of slavery and the women's rights flow. via reexamining Emerson, Poe, Melville, Douglass, Walt Whitman, Chopin, and Faulkner and others, Rowe assesses the measure to which significant writers' attitudes towards race, classification, and gender give a contribution to precise political reforms in 19th and twentieth-century American tradition.
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Additional resources for At Emerson's Tomb: The Politics of Classic American Literature
Certainly Emerson is striving here to link his philosophy with the traditional abolitionist arguments based on every human being’s natural rights to life, liberty, and control of one’s own labor-power. But he has made it appear that the best resistance to the new law is to be found in a transcendentalist temper, which supports disobedience of the law. In direct response to Daniel Webster’s mockery of Seward’s appeal to “higher laws” in opposition to the Compromise of 1850, Emerson invokes just such “higher laws” now in the guise of his transcendentalism: I thought that all men of all conditions had been made sharers of a certain experience, that in certain rare and retired moments they had been made 30 Emerson’s Political Writing to see how man is man, or what makes the essence of rational beings, namely, that, .
Later, such enthusiasm will expand to include Emerson’s zeal for Manifest Destiny, which will be the work of united and free African-American and white laborers in the aftermath of Emancipation and the Civil War: “There does exist, perhaps, a popular will that the Union shall not be broken,—that our trade, and therefore our laws, must have the whole breadth of the continent, and from Canada to the Gulf ” (Civilization, 285). 37 Nevertheless, the prevailing view in “American Civilization,” like that in “To the Citizens of Concord” is that progressive, laissez-faire urban capitalism offers the most likely means both toward enduring emancipation of African Americans and toward the “civilization” of “barbarous lands,” whether the latter be in Africa or India or the American South.
There is no final way to justify the selection of texts as “representative,” and those works omitted tend to invalidate most of the general claims made in such studies. It is also difficult in such studies to avoid the impression that the author’s “selection” is intended to serve in itself or synecdochally for some “great tradition” based on the values enunciated by the scholarly author. ” I have retained this troublesome term, “classic,” precisely because I think writers like Douglass, Jacobs, and Chopin ought to be included in that definition even as they force us to redefine what the American “classic” means.