Thinking America: New England Intellectuals and the Varieties of American Identity

Overview

In this thoughtful and wide-ranging cultural critique, Taylor explores the condition and role of the intellectual in nineteenth-century New England by examining five writers: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, William James, and George Santayana. Using key texts from each, he analyzes the status and identity of intellectual figures, and explores the relationship between intellectual work and theories of national identity. The questions the book raises—about the alliance between thought and...
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Thinking America: New England Intellectuals and the Varieties of American Identity

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Overview

In this thoughtful and wide-ranging cultural critique, Taylor explores the condition and role of the intellectual in nineteenth-century New England by examining five writers: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, William James, and George Santayana. Using key texts from each, he analyzes the status and identity of intellectual figures, and explores the relationship between intellectual work and theories of national identity. The questions the book raises—about the alliance between thought and action, about the best locations for intellectual work, and about the challenges posed to thinking by an increasingly fragmented and diverse public—remain pertinent today. Chronologically and geographically focused, Thinking America has wide resonance for the ongoing debates about the genealogy—and future viability—of the public intellectual.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Taylor’s discussion is complex and draws on recent developments in cultural and transnational theory. But though some will find the abstract terminology murky, most will discover meaningful contexts for notable texts: Emerson’s English Traits, Thoreau’s ‘A Plea for Captain John Brown,’ and Fuller’s New York Tribune dispatches. . . . Recommended.”—Choice

“[Taylor’s book will be valuable to scholars grappling with contradictions between alienation and inclusion, transcendence and the limits imposed by structure, particularity, and cosmopolitanism.”—Journal of American History

“The implication of Taylor’s book is that the retention of idealism as a functional ideal, a useful asymptote in the striving toward which critique is produced, is essential to radical intellectual work. Transcendence thus becomes the intellectual’s ‘necessary fiction,’ a post-metaphysical epistemological and representational practice that is ‘constantly malleable and historically determined.’ Whether this framing of intellectual work provides occasion for intellectuals to recalculate their ideological and historical coordinates is the provocative question Taylor’s richly suggestive book poses to its readers.”—New England Quarterly

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Product Details

Meet the Author

ANDREW TAYLOR is Senior Lecturer in English Literature, School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures, University of Edinburgh.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Note on Brief Titles
Introduction: Thinking in the Emersonian Grain
Affiliation and Alienation
Thought and Action
Conversation and Cosmopolitanism
Variety and Limits
Aesthetics and Institutions
Coda: The Scene of Instruction
Notes
Index
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