The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance

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The term "Western esotericism" refers to a wide range of spiritual currents including alchemy, Hermeticism, Kabbala, Rosicrucianism, and Christian theosophy, as well as several practical forms of esotericism like cartomancy, geomancy, necromancy, alchemy, astrology, herbalism, and magic. The early presence of esotericism in North America has not been much studied, and even less so the indebtedness to esotericism of some major American literary figures. In this book, Arthur Versluis breaks new ground, showing that many writers of the so-called American Renaissance drew extensively on and were inspired by Western esoteric currents.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An excellent book and one worthy to be consulted by all scholars of nineteenth-century American literary and religious culture." —Religious Studies Review

"[G]roundbreaking...His analysis and scholarship are as fascinating as a treasure hunt."—The Quest

"This useful and fascinating...corrective to conventional understandings of the influences and impulses of various American Renaissance figures is recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above."—Choice

"[H]e provides readers with an impressive introduction to the subject, one that well deserves John Gatta's dust jacket praise of his volume as " a learned, authoritative, and genuinely original contribution."—Religion and the Arts

"Brings to light a revealing dimension of nineteenth-century American literary culture that has too often been relegated to footnotes or passed over in somewhat embarrassed silence by twentieth-century literary critics. . . . brings to light a fascinating dimension of early American literary culture."—Journal of Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195138870
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Pages: 240
  • Lexile: 1600L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 European Esoteric Currents 8
3 Esotericism in Early America 21
4 The Esoteric Ambience of the American Renaissance 53
5 Hitchcock 64
6 Poe 72
7 Hawthorne 81
8 Melville 91
9 Greaves 105
10 Alcott 115
11 Emerson 124
12 Fuller 147
13 Whitman 157
14 Dickinson 171
15 The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance 183
Notes 193
Bibliography 217
Index 231
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