Above Time: Emerson's and Thoreau's Temporal Revolutions

Above Time: Emerson's and Thoreau's Temporal Revolutions

by James R. Guthrie
     
 

ISBN-10: 0826213731

ISBN-13: 9780826213730

Pub. Date: 12/28/2001

Publisher: University of Missouri Press

In Above Time, James R. Guthrie explores the origins of the two preeminent transcendentalists' revolutionary approaches to time, as well as to the related concepts of history, memory, and change. Most critical discussions of this period neglect the important truth that the entire American transcendentalist project involved a transcendence of temporality as

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Overview

In Above Time, James R. Guthrie explores the origins of the two preeminent transcendentalists' revolutionary approaches to time, as well as to the related concepts of history, memory, and change. Most critical discussions of this period neglect the important truth that the entire American transcendentalist project involved a transcendence of temporality as well as of materiality. Correspondingly, both writers call in their major works for temporal reform, to be achieved primarily by rejecting the past and future in order to live in an amplified present moment.

Emerson and Thoreau were compelled to see time in a new light by concurrent developments in the sciences and the professions. Geologists were just then hotly debating the age of the earth, while zoologists were beginning to unravel the mysteries of speciation, and archaeologists were deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. These discoveries worked collectively to enlarge the scope of time, thereby helping pave the way for the appearance of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859.

Well aware of these wider cultural developments, Emerson and Thoreau both tried (although with varying degrees of success) to integrate contemporary scientific thought with their preexisting late-romantic idealism. As transcendentalists, they already believed in the existence of "correspondences"—affinities between man and nature, formalized as symbols. These symbols could then be decoded to discover the animating presence in the world of eternal laws as pervasive as the laws of science. Yet unlike scientists, Emerson and Thoreau hoped to go beyond merely understanding nature to achieving a kind of passionate identity with it, and they believed that such a union might be achieved only if time was first recognized as being a purely human construct with little or no validity in the rest of the natural world. Consequently, both authors employ a series of philosophical, rhetorical, and psychological strategies designed to jolt their readers out of time, often by attacking received cultural notions about temporality.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780826213730
Publisher:
University of Missouri Press
Publication date:
12/28/2001
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction1
1A History of Time: Emerson and Lyell, Agassiz, and Darwin6
2"My Carnac" and Memnon's Head: Temporal Reform and Timely Memorials in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers46
3Circles and Lines: Emerson's Parade of Days92
4The Walking Stick, the Surveyor's Staff, and the Corn in the Night: Thoreau's Alternative Temporal Indices131
5Answering the Sphinx: The Evolution of the Emersonian Metamorphosis173
6Inches' Wood: Thoreau's Re-membered Cultural Landscape201
7Extemporaneous Man, Representative Man235
Works Cited253
Index259

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