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Mr. Emerson's Revolution

Mr. Emerson's Revolution Jean McClure Mudge (ed.)
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Read Jean Mudge's account of Emerson's worldwide influence on our

[Mr Emerson's Revolution] is an important and accessible contribution to the intellectual history of nineteenth-century social and moral reform.
 Tiffany K. Wayne, Journal of American History, 103/4 (2017), 1032–1033

In Mr Emerson's Revolution, Jean McClure Mudge and a team of leading Emerson scholars tell the story of Emerson's life and work as one of serial moral-political change. They give us a multi-perspectival but thematically unified recounting of the whole arc of Emerson's career from the point of view of his evolving orientation towards abolition, women's rights, and social reform more generally. [...] Mudge's probing treatment of the crisis provoked by Fuller's forceful emergence into Emerson's life provides one of the book's most original sections. [...] In classical Republican thought the term 'revolution' suggested circular turning rather than linear forward movement. With this in mind it becomes possible to see both trajectories in play over the long course of Emerson's political (r)evolution as described here by Mudge et al. Emerson's constant moving forward, we learn, like that of his country at its best, was paradoxically enabled by no less constant recourse to a stable set of emancipatory moral principles.
Neal Dolan, Emerson Society Papers (Fall 2018), 15

This volume traces the life, thought and work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a giant of American intellectual history, whose transforming ideas greatly strengthened the two leading reform issues of his day: abolition and women’s rights. A broad and deep, yet cautious revolutionary, he spoke about a spectrum of inner and outer realities—personal, philosophical, theological and cultural—all of which gave his mid-career turn to political and social issues their immediate and lasting power.
This multi-authored study frankly explores Emerson's private prejudices against blacks and women, held at the same time as he was publicly championing their causes. Such a juxtaposition freshly charts the evolution of Emerson's slow but steady application of his early neo-idealism to emancipating blacks and freeing women from social bondage. His shift from philosopher to active reformer had lasting effects not only in America but also abroad.
In the U.S. Emerson influenced such diverse figures as Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson and William James; in Europe, Mickiewicz, Wilde, Kipling, Nietzsche and Camus. He also had many leading followers in India and Japan. The book includes 166 illustrations, among them eight custom-made maps of Emerson's haunts and wide-ranging lecture itineraries. It also includes a new four-part chronological table of his life, notable national and international events, and major inventions.
Mr. Emerson's Revolution provides essential reading for students and teachers of American intellectual history, the abolitionist struggle and the women’s rights movement―and for anyone interested in the nineteenth-century roots of these seismic social changes.

The Emerson Society and an anonymous donor generously contributed towards the publication of this volume.

Mr Emerson’s Revolution
Jean McClure Mudge (ed.) | September 2015
490 | 166 colour illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783740970
ISBN Hardback: 9781783740987
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783740994
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783741007
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783741014
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781783746422
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0065
BIC subject codes: DS (Literature: history and criticism), BG (Biography), HB (History), HPQ (Ethics and moral philosophy); BISAC subject codes: BIO000000 (BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / General), LIT004020 (LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General), LIT014000 (LITERARY CRITICISM / Poetry); OCLC Number: 921879692.

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Foreword: Emerson’s Renewing Power
John Stauffer and Steven Brown

Introduction: Emerson as Spiritual and Social Revolutionary
Jean McClure Mudge

The Making of a Protester
1.1 A Legacy of Revolt, 1803-1821
Phyllis Cole
1.2 Becoming an American "Adam,” 1822-1835
Wesley T. Mott

Public and Private Revolutions
2.1 The "New Thinking”: Nature, Self, and Society, 1836-1850
David M. Robinson
2.2 Dialogues with Self and Society, 1835-1860
Jean McClure Mudge

Emerson the Reformer
3. A Pragmatic Idealist in Action, 1850-1865
Len Gougeon

Emerson’s Evolving Emphases
4. Actively Entering Old Age, 1865-1882
Jean McClure Mudge

Emerson’s Legacy in America
5. Spawning a Wide New Consciousness
Jean McClure Mudge

Emerson in the West and East
6.1 Europe in Emerson and Emerson in Europe
Beniamino Soressi
6.2 Asia in Emerson and Emerson in Asia
Alan Hodder

Emerson: A Chronology
Selected Bibliography
List of Illustrations

Steven Brown
writes on nineteenth century environmental aesthetics in American literature and history. Brown is also a widely-published poet and photography critic. He is currently co-editor for Edition Galerie Vevais, Germany and a PhD candidate in Harvard’s American Studies program.

Phyllis Cole, Professor of English, Women's Studies and American Studies at Penn State Brandywine, is a past President of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society (2004-05) and winner of the Society's Distinguished Achievement Award (2011). Her work on Emerson and the transcendentalist movement includes many articles and the book, Mary Moody Emerson and The Origins of Transcendentalism: A Family History (1998), a runner-up for the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize. Her recent work has focused on the legacy of Margaret Fuller. She is co-editor of the essay collection, Toward a Female Genealogy of Transcendentalism (University of Georgia Press, 2014).

Len Gougeon, Professor of American Literature and Distinguished University Fellow at the University of Scranton, is the author of Virtue's Hero: Emerson, Antislavery, and Reform, and Emerson & Eros: The Making of a Cultural Hero, Emerson's Truth, Emerson's Wisdom, and coeditor of Emerson's Antislavery Writings. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Emerson Society. His most recent work is 'Militant Abolitionism: Douglass, Emerson, and the Rise of the Anti-Slave,' in The New England Quarterly. Currently, he is at work on a book dealing with the cultural warfare that occurred between America and Great Britain as a result of tensions and conflicts arising from the Civil War and the struggle to end slavery.

Alan Hodder, Rosamond Stewardson Taylor Professor of the Comparative Study of Religion at Hampshire College teaches a wide array of courses in early American literature and religious history, and world religions. He is the author of Thoreau’s Ecstatic Witness (2001) and Emerson’s Rhetoric of Revelation: Nature, the Reader, and the Apocalypse Within (1989). Together with Robert Meagher he is also the co-editor of The Epic Voice. In addition, he is the author of numerous articles and review essays on such topics as Puritan pulpit rhetoric, Transcendentalist spirituality, early American orientalism, Whitman’s poetry and poetics, and American nature writing.

Wesley T. Mott, Professor of English at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is author of 'The Strains of Eloquence': Emerson and His Sermons. He has edited several reference books on New England Transcendentalism and antebellum literature. He has also edited volumes in the writings of both Emerson (vol. 4 of The Complete Sermons) and Thoreau (vol. 9 of The Journal: 1854-1855 [forthcoming]). In 1989, he organized the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, which he has served as secretary/treasurer, president, and, for twenty years, publisher of its newsletter, Emerson Society Papers, and is a recipient of the Society’s Distinguished Achievement Award. He is editor of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Context ( 2014).

Jean McClure Mudge, Yale Ph.D. (American Studies), and independent scholar/documentary filmmaker has written four books and several articles, among them Emily Dickinson and the Image of Home (1975; 2nd ed., 1976), which included Emerson's influence on Dickinson. Her award-winning documentary series on early American writers, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe has been shown on PBS, in leading festivals, and in U.S. embassies. Funded by several grants, including one from the Emerson Society, she began this collaborative project in 2002. She has also written a documentary script about Emerson. At the American Literature Association in 2012, she presented a paper on "The Emerson-Lincoln Relationship.” Mudge has just edited the posthumous work of her husband, ecumenical ethicist Lewis Mudge, We Can Make the World Economy a Sustainable Global Home (2014).

David M. Robinson is Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Director of the Center for the Humanities at Oregon State University. He is author of Emerson and the Conduct of Life and Natural Life: Thoreau’s Worldly Transcendentalism. From 1988 through 2008 he was author of the chapter 'Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller and Transcendentalism' for the annual publication American Literary Scholarship. He has served as Fulbright Guest Professor at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2010, he was elected a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Beniamino Soressi holds a B.A./M.A., summa cum laude in philosophy from the University of Parma, where he also received his doctorate and currently serves as a teaching assistant of Theoretical Philosophy. He has translated into Italian, written introductions and edited several collections of Emerson’s essays, including The Conduct of Life. He has published the monograph Ralph Waldo Emerson: il pensiero e la solitudine, with a foreword by Alessandro Ferrara (2004). This book is a systematic analysis, along interpretive lines suggested by Stanley Cavell, of Emerson as a thinker who stands at the intersection of modern Continental philosophy, American Idealism, American Pragmatism and Nietzschean philosophy. Another monograph about Emerson will be published by Edwin Mellen Press.

John Stauffer is a leading authority on antislavery, social protest movements and interracial friendship. He is a Harvard University professor of English and American Literature and African American Studies, and Chair of the History of American Civilization program at Harvard. His eight books include The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (2002) and Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (2008), which both won numerous awards. He is the author of more than 50 articles, on topics ranging from the Civil War era to visual culture, and is working on new books about interracial friendship and about Frederick Douglass and visual culture. His essays have appeared in Time, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, Raritan, and the New York Sun. He has appeared on national radio and television shows and has lectured widely throughout the United States and Europe.


Emerson‘s extension of America’s political revolution of 1776 into the country’s consciousness as a reformation of the self becomes social and concrete as he applies his Transcendentalist ideals to society in the 1840s and 50s. Private tragedy and the cross-fertilization of his roles as lecturer and reformer stimulate this shift. But all the while, Emerson is enduring an inner debate between his ideals and his social biases that markedly affect the progress of his change. This conflict reaches a resolution only after the Civil War. In the process, Emerson reveals to his diary a "hidden” self. Within this framework, each chapter is briefly overviewed. (Jean Mudge, 10 pp.) 


Part 1: First Impressions, 1803-1821. Emerson grows up in Boston within a distinguished family that becomes increasingly impoverished after his father’s death. His mother and his father’s sister, Mary Moody Emerson, nurture high ambitions in the young Ralph. At Harvard College, he becomes "Waldo,” previously his middle name, an early sign of becoming a solo Romantic artist in the midst of theological controversy and the rise of Unitarianism. Within the framework of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, he explores attitudes toward race. (Phyllis Cole, 40 pp.)

Part 2: Becoming an American "Adam,”1822-1835. Emerson’s post-Harvard emotional and intellectual growth, including his inner debate about slavery at 19, is seen through continuing family relationships, a first marriage to Ellen Tucker ending in her early death, his resignation from the ministry but his continuing spiritual search, an early interest in science, a seminal 1832-33 trip to Europe, his first lectures, his move to Concord and his second marriage to Lydia (Lidian) Jackson, a woman who fast becomes an ardent abolitionist. (Wesley Mott, 43 pp.)


Part 1: Making Known His Revolution, 1836-1850. Set within national and personal contexts of the Jacksonian Era, this chapter explores the sources and nature of Emerson’s major ideas in Nature and early essays. It describes his magnetic role in the formation of the "Transcendental Club” and its journal,The Dial. The death of his son Waldo and mounting North-South conflicts explain his personal and philosophical turning point from the mid-1840s toward a Romantic pragmatism. (David Robinson, 39 pp.)

Part 2: Dialogues with the Self and Society, 1836-1850. This chapter begins with Emerson’s sensitivity to the nature of words and dialogue, fundamental to his philosophy, social reform and self-understanding. Relationships with key friends—Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and his second wife Lydia (Lidian) Jackson—illuminate his steps toward unveiling his secret self. Its discovery frees Emerson to focus his energy in the public sphere as a rising lecturer. (Jean Mudge, 43 pp.) 


Transcendentalist as Activist, 1850-65: Emerson’s stress on individual spiritual change and the Constitution’s acceptance of slavery frame his melding of philosophy with social movements as he becomes a leader among the abolitionists and supports women’s rights, at first conditionally, then whole-heartedly. For the first time in book form, old and new critics of Emerson as a racist, e.g., Neil Painter (The History of White People, 2010), are themselves evaluated. (Len Gougeon, 55 pp.)


Actively Entering Old Age, 1865-1882. Despite Emerson’s gradual loss of memory, his post-Civil War career and later works testify to considerable remaining intellectual vigor despite a physical decline.  It freshly measures the permanent mark that his emphasis on reform had made upon his philosophy which now emphasizes ethics over metaphysics. Ideas from three essays, "Fate,” "Worship” and "Character,” are unpacked as his effective postwar platform.  His reactions to the Reconstruction Era reflect this final focus as does his full support of women’s desire to serve in public life.  A celebrated hero of the women’s movement, he supports the career of the young poet Emma Lazarus. A trip to California rejuvenates him and his third and last tour of Europe helps cement his international reputation. Emerson's poem "Terminus” (1867), in progress over many years, provides a lens for estimating his whole career.  (Jean Mudge, 48 pp.) 


Spawning a Wide New Consciousness. This chapter reveals Emerson's separate influence on Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William James, and Frank Lloyd Wright, as examples of his much wider and deeper mark upon American politics, poetry, philosophy, and the arts, with mention of other figures. (Jean Mudge, 69 pp.)

Chapter 6

Part 1: Europe in Emerson and Emerson in Europe. The influence of Old World ideas on Emerson is background to a closer focus on Emerson’s export of American Transcendentalism to leading minds in England and the Continent who, with him, helped define the birth of modernism. (Beniamino Soressi, 42 pp.)

Part 2: Asia in Emerson and Emerson in Asia. This chapter examines Emerson’s exposure to, then his closer focus on, the cultures of Persia, India, China and Japan. It also takes up his reception and influence in selected countries where he was known and is being studied today. (Alan Hodder, 24 pp.)