Friday, January 22, 2010

Emerson the Kook?

I happen to agree with much of the premise of this article, written by two University of Hartford profs (shout out to the Mark Twain House!), which argues that Emerson's prose is highly overrated and, in large part, both irrelevant and ridiculously ostentatious, as well as often internally contradictory. 

The professors argument that Emerson should be removed from the canon, though, fails, I think, because even if Emerson's ideas are for the most part bubkes, his influence can not honestly said to be so.  For good or ill, Emerson's ideas (or attributions to those ideas) have influenced the history of American thought, in literature, political science, even philosophy (see William James).  I do think Emerson should be studied with an eye less to his self-described (and evidently self-perpetuating) greatness, and more with a critical eye toward what he actually accomplishes in his essays and (uch) poetry versus what actually lies therein.

No comments:

Post a Comment