Essay, Research Paper: Ralph Emerson


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Ralph Waldo Emerson “…was truly one of our great geniuses” even though he
may have a short biography (Hodgins 212). But as Emerson once said himself,
“Great geniuses have the shortest biographies.” Emerson was also a major
leader of “the philosophical movement of Transcendentalism”. (Encarta 1)
Transcendentalism was belief in a higher reality than that found everyday life
that a human can achieve. Biographical Information Emerson was born on May 25,
1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father died when he was young and his mother
was left with him and his four other siblings. At the age of 18 he graduated
from Harvard University and was a teacher for three years in Boston. Then in
1825 he entered Harvard Divinity School and preached for three years. At the age
of 29 he resigned for ministry, partly because of the death of his wife after
only 17 months of marriage. In 1835 he married Lydia Jackson and started to
lecture. Then in 1836, he helped to start the Transcendental Club. The
Transcendental Club was formed for authors that were part of this historical
movement. Emerson was a big part of this and practically initiated the entire
club. As we know he was already a major part of the movement and know got
himself involved more. Many people and ways of life throughout his career
including Neoplatonism, the Hindu religion, Plato and even his wife influenced
Emerson. He also inspired many Transcendentalists like Thoreau. Emerson didn’t
win any major awards, but he did win the love and appreciation of his readers.
Literary Information Emerson wrote many genres of writing including poetry and
sermons, but his best writing is found in his essays. Even though he is noted
for his essays, he was also a strong force in poetry. Emerson was known for
presenting ideas in an expressive style. He wrote about numerous issues
including nature, society, conspiracy and freedom. After returning to America
after a visit to England, he wrote for the abolitionist cause, which was
eliminating slavery. Emerson used these ideas in his 1837 lecture “The
American Scholar,” which he presented before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of
Harvard. In it he talked about Americans becoming more intelligently
independent. In a second address, commonly referred to as the “Address at
Divinity College,” given in 1838 to the graduating class of Cambridge Divinity
College, brought about a problem because it attacked religion and pushed
independence. Some of Emerson’s famous titles are “Essays”, which was
published in 1844, Poems, which was published in 1847, “Nature: Addresses and
Lectures”, 1849, and “Representative Men”, 1850. In 1860, he published
“Conduct of Life”, which was the first of his works to receive immediate
popularity. In these works you were able to see the influence Plato and
Neoplatonism had of him. “Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher. He developed
the notion of a higher reality that exists beyond the powers of human
comprehension. Plato explained that the idea of absolute goodness transcends
human description. Neoplantonism was a collective designation for the
philosophical and religious doctrines of a heterogeneous school of speculative
thinkers who sought to develop and synthesize the metaphysical ideas of Plato”
(Encarta). Ralph Waldo Emerson found motivation to write in anything he did,
whether it was visiting England, the Transcendental Movement or if it was
abolishing slavery. He didn’t receive much fame during his lifetime, but after
he passed away in1882, he was remembered for all of his writing, not just one
good essay. “Emerson was the most important figure during the Romantic
Period” (Myerson 3). He left his mark on writing, especially the Romantic
“Emerson, Ralph Waldo.” Microsoft Encarta. CD-ROM. 1998 ed. “Emerson,
Ralph Waldo.” Lkd. Columbia University Homepage, at “ILT Web.” *
* Hodgins, Francis. ed. Adventures in American Literature. Orlando: Harcourt,
1989. Myerson, Joel. “Ralph Waldo Emerson.” Grolier Encyclopedia. CD-ROM.
1993 ed.

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