Representative Men / Edition 1

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Overview

Representative Men includes seven lectures on great men -- Plato, Swedenborg, Montaige, Shakespeare, Napoleon, and Goethe. It is natural to believe in great men. If the companions of our childhood should turn out to be heroes, and their condition regal, it would not surprise us. All mythology opens with demigods, and the circumstance is high and poetic; that is, their genius is paramount. In the legends of the Gautama, the first men ate the earth and found it deliciously sweet.

Emerson is one of the most influential thinkers in American history. His Transcendentalism preached a close communion with man and nature and is one of the great life-affirming philosophies of any age. Society and Solitude provides a salient exemplification of Emerson's thought.

As one of the architects of the transcendentalist movement, Emerson embraced a philosophy that championed the individual, emphasized independent thought, and prized "the splendid labyrinth of one's own perceptions." More than any writer of his time, he forged a style distinct from his European predecessors and embodied and defined what it meant to be an American. Matthew Arnold called Emerson's essays "the most important work done in prose."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674761056
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Delbanco is the Mendelson Family Chair of American Studies and Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.
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Read an Excerpt

"Emerson is a writer who grows restless if he stays too long with any proposition. And so, as one of his most intelligent modern readers, Judith Shklar, has pointed out, he built Representative Men around the principle of 'rotation,' which had become a political axiom in Jacksonian America—the idea that no man, no matter how imposing, should be accorded permanent authority. Representative Men honors the language of democracy in its very title, and it employs political metaphors throughout. 'We are multiplied,' the opening chapter declares, 'by our proxies.' "

—From the Introduction by Andrew Delbanco
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Table of Contents

Historical Introduction

Statement of Editorial Principles

Textual Introduction

REPRESENTATIVE MEN: SEVEN LECTURES

1. Uses of Great Men

2. Plato, or the Philosopher

Plato: New Readings

3. Swedenborg, or the Mystic

4. Montaigne, or the Skeptic

5. Shakspeare, or the Poet

6. Napoleon, or the Man of the World

7. Goethe, or the Writer

Notes

Textual Apparatus

Annex A: The Manuscript

Appendix 1: The 1850 Compositors

Appendix 2: Revisions in the Manuscript

Annex B: Parallel Passages

Index

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Preface

"Emerson is a writer who grows restless if he stays too long with any proposition. And so, as one of his most intelligent modern readers, Judith Shklar, has pointed out, he built Representative Men around the principle of 'rotation,' which had become a political axiom in Jacksonian America—the idea that no man, no matter how imposing, should be accorded permanent authority. Representative Men honors the language of democracy in its very title, and it employs political metaphors throughout. 'We are multiplied,' the opening chapter declares, 'by our proxies.' "

—From the Introduction by Andrew Delbanco

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