Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Essays and Poems, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

As an adolescent America searched for its unique identity among the nations of the world, a number of thinkers and writers emerged eager to share their vision of what the American character could be. Among their leaders was Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose essays, lectures, and poems defined the American transcendentalist movement, though he himself disliked the term.

Emerson advocates a rejection of fear-driven conformity, a total independence of thought and spirit, and a life lived in harmony with nature. He believes that Truth lies within each individual, for each is part of a greater whole, a universal “over-soul” through which we transcend the merely mortal.

Emerson was extremely prolific throughout his life; his collected writings fill forty volumes. This edition contains his major works, including Nature, the essays “Self-Reliance,” “The American Scholar,” “The Over-Soul,” “Circles,” “The Poet,” and “Experience,”, and such important poems as “The Rhodora,” “Uriel,” “The Humble-Bee,” “Earth-Song,” “Give All to Love,” and the well-loved “Concord Hymn.”

Includes a comprehensive glossary of names.

Peter Norberg has been Assistant Professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia since 1997. A specialist in New England transcendentalism and the history of the antebellum period, he also has published on Herman Melville’s poetry. He currently is writing a history of Emerson’s career as a public lecturer.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593080761
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 3/1/2004
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 79,422
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Norberg has been Assistant Professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia since 1997. A specialist in New England transcendentalism and the history of the antebellum period, he also has published on Herman Melville’s poetry. He currently is writing a history of Emerson’s career as a public lecturer.

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Read an Excerpt

From Peter Norberg's Introduction to Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the face of this new materialism, Emerson feared that America was losing its most valuable resource—the individual—as men and women increasingly defined themselves in terms of their professions and their possessions. "The tradesman scarcely ever gives an ideal worth to his work, but is ridden by the routine of his craft, and the soul is subject to dollars," he lamented in "The American Scholar." "The priest becomes a form; the attorney, a statute-book; the mechanic, a machine; the sailor, a rope of a ship". The alienation that results from conformity could be overcome only by a radical break with custom and tradition. "If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible society, vote with a great party either for the Government or against it," he wrote in "Self-Reliance," ". . . under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. . . . But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself" . For Emerson, our ability to think and act on our own terms was ultimately the strongest corrective to conformity. "In all of my lectures," he wrote in his journal in 1840, "I have preached one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man" (Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks, vol. 7, p. 342; see "For Further Reading"). By keeping this a continual refrain throughout his career, he placed the individual at the center of American culture as a critical counterforce to the mentality of mass consumerism. Today, when the pressures placed on individuals to conform to the material values of American culture are perhaps stronger than ever, readers young and old will find Emerson's essays a resource for personal, intellectual, and professional renewal.

The emphasis Emerson placed on the individual was grounded in his theological beliefs. Human life, as well as nature, was a manifestation of divinity. In moments of genuine inspiration or original action, the individual did not think or act from himself but was a conduit for what Emerson variously referred to as "Supreme Mind," "Universal Being," or "the Over-soul." "We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us organs of its activity and receivers of its truth," he wrote in "Self-Reliance." "When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams". This fact is easy to overlook in an increasingly secular world, but it is essential for understanding the difference between Emersonian self-reliance and what Albert J. von Frank has termed the "predatory individualism" of the expansionist era.

Equally important is some knowledge of Emerson's personal experience of the transient nature of human life. From his childhood until the middle of his life, Emerson lived through the tragic loss of those closest to him. His father died less than two weeks before Emerson's eighth birthday; his three-year-old sister, Mary Caroline, when he was ten. His first wife, Ellen Tucker, suffered from tuberculosis, and Emerson probably knew she would die young when they married. Still, when she succumbed to the disease at the age of nineteen, before their second wedding anniversary, he was devastated.

Tuberculosis was widespread in New England. Emerson showed symptoms of it himself. It claimed the lives of two of his brothers, Edward at the age of twenty-nine and Charles at thirty-two. They were his closest confidants. Following Charles's funeral, Emerson is reported to have said, "When one has never had but little society—and all that society is taken away—what is there worth living for?" Finally, in 1842, when Emerson was thirty-eight and happily married to his second wife, Lydia Jackson, their eldest son, Waldo, died of scarlet fever. He was five. Emerson's optimistic affirmations of the individual take on new urgency when read in light of this litany of loss.

When he writes in Nature that our "relation to the world . . . is not to be learned by any addition or subtraction or other comparison of known quantities, but is arrived at by untaught sallies of the spirit, by a continual self-recovery, and by entire humility", the "self-recovery" he speaks of is not simply a return to one's sense of self. It is a recovery from our failures, and especially from the failure of what we thought we knew, in the face of experiences that indicate otherwise. At times in his essays, Emerson will entertain the deepest skepticism. "No picture of life can have any veracity that does not admit the odious facts", he wrote in "Fate." Among these facts is the awful truth that not just our knowledge, but our loves and friendships are partial and temporary. "Souls never touch their objects," he wrote in "Experience." "An unnavigable sea washes with silent waves between us and the things we aim at and converse with". And yet, in the face of these facts, Emerson still affirms the beauty and value of human life. Confronting the mixed bag of human experience—what he jokingly calls "the pot-luck of the day"—he insists that "if we will take the good we find, asking no questions, we shall have heaping measures". These are not the words of an idealistic dreamer, as Emerson has sometimes been portrayed. They are an expression of his confidence in man's ability to meet and master his circumstances; they are a call for a pragmatic engagement of the world in which we find ourselves.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 105 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Masterful writing

    Contrary to the opinions of many, I do not find Emerson boring or difficult to read-quite the contrary, actually. I have never read non-fiction prose so poetic and rapturous as Emerson's; each sentence is full of depth, and his use of symbolism and imagery and the flow of his sentences makes his writing a delight to the mind. Those who do not attempt "creative reading" will not understand Emerson, but those who enjoy mulling over an author's words and divining hidden meanings (or simply take pleasure in masterful use of the English language) will greatly enjoy Emerson's work-at least I do! Although I disagree with Emerson on many issues, his work is also very intelectually stimulating and challenges the reader to think. Much of his philosophy and insight is also "spot on" in many respects.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2004

    beautiful stuff

    great stuff here. sometimes his strong opinions don't necessarily reflect my own, but he is extremely eloquent nonetheless. if you like his work, check out c.s. lewis..another great talent. take care -------- aim - idioteque182 msn - silveradio182@hotmail.com icq - 211613003 http://www.thecopelandsite.com

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Raplh Waldo Emerson

    Emerson is the father of the transcendentalist movement. He speaks his mind in his essays and poems in this book which also includes "On Nature."
    He shows his beliefs on himself and the world around him and is not afraid to be criticized for his work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2014

    I love Barnes & Noble Classics series of books. This is no e

    I love Barnes & Noble Classics series of books. This is no exception huge fan of Emerson and this book has his great works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2012

    What i think...

    Dont get me wrong hes a gifted writer all all the way but i was so disapointed. I was ecstatic to get to read it but i didnt understand it no matter how much i read it over and over. Its a very complex novel but bravo on those who read it. Im sure its beautiful and paints a blissful image in your mind but i didnt reflect those emotions myself. Sorry

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