Representative Men: Seven Lectures

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"In 1845 Ralph Waldo Emerson began a series of lectures and writings in which he limned six figures who embodied the principles and aspirations of a still-young American republic. Emerson offers timeless meditations on the value of individual greatness, reconnecting readers with the everyday virtues of his "representative men": Plato, in whose writings are contained "the culture of nations"; Emanuel Swedenborg, a "rich discoverer" who strove to unite the scientific and spiritual planes; Michel de Montaigne, "the frankest and honestest of all
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Representative Men: Seven Lectures

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Overview

"In 1845 Ralph Waldo Emerson began a series of lectures and writings in which he limned six figures who embodied the principles and aspirations of a still-young American republic. Emerson offers timeless meditations on the value of individual greatness, reconnecting readers with the everyday virtues of his "representative men": Plato, in whose writings are contained "the culture of nations"; Emanuel Swedenborg, a "rich discoverer" who strove to unite the scientific and spiritual planes; Michel de Montaigne, "the frankest and honestest of all writers"; William Shakespeare, who "wrote the text of modern life"; Napoleon Bonaparte, who had the "virtues and vices" of common men writ large; and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who "in conversation, in calamity ... finds new materials."" This Modern Library Paperback Classic reflects the author's corrections for an 1876 reprinting.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The most important work done in prose.”
—Matthew Arnold
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812970050
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/8/2004
  • Series: Modern Library Classics Series
  • Pages: 164
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803?—1882) was a renowned lecturer and writer, whose ideas on philosophy, religion, and literature influenced many writers, including Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. After an undergraduate career at Harvard, he studied at Harvard Divinity School and became an ordained minister, continuing a long line of ministers in his family. He traveled widely and lectured, and became well known for his publications Essays and Nature.

About the Introducer
BRENDA WINEAPPLE is the author of Hawthorne: A Life and Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein. She has twice a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She lives in New York City.

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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

Introduction
I Uses of great men 3
II Plato; or, the philosopher 23
Plato : new readings 46
III Swedenborg; or, the mystic 53
IV Montaigne; or, the sceptic 85
V Shakespeare; or, the poet 107
VI Napoleon; or, the man of the world 126
VII Goethe; or, the writer 147
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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

Andrew Delbanco is Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. Among his many publications are The Puritan Ordeal and The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope (both from Harvard).

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