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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."
|I||Uses of Great Men||1|
|II||Plato, or the Philosopher||21|
|Plato: New Readings||45|
|III||Swedenborg, or the Mystic||51|
|IV||Montaigne, or the Skeptic||83|
|V||Shakspeare, or the Poet||107|
|VI||Napoleon, or the Man of the World||127|
|VII||Goethe, or the Writer||149|
"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