By Patrick J. Keane
The therapy of the Wordsworth-Coleridge-Emerson nexus all through is so beneficiant, methodical, and insightful that it's challenging to visualize it ever being surpassed.”—Richard Gravil, writer of Romantic Dialogues: Anglo-American Continuities, 1776–1862
About the Author
Patrick J. Keane is Professor Emeritus of English at LeMoyne university in Syracuse, big apple. he's the writer of diverse books, together with Coleridge’s Submerged Politics: the traditional Mariner and Robinson Crusoe(University of Missouri Press).
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Extra resources for Emerson, Romanticism, and Intuitive Reason: The Transatlantic "Light of All Our Day"
After tracking Emerson’s history of response, public and private, to both Coleridge and Wordsworth, this first section ends by unpacking the recurrent image of the “shedding” of light as both spiritual illumination and a metaphor for influence. The next three chapters, clustered under the title “Polarities,” offer variations on a theme, illustrations of a mode of thinking pervasive in both Coleridge and Emerson. Indeed, nothing is more central to the Romantic zeitgeist—which embraces German idealism, British Romanticism, and Emersonian Transcendentalism —than the principle of polarity.
In “Spiritual Laws,” discussing a “man’s genius, the quality that differences him from every other,” his “susceptibility to one class of influences, the selection of what is fit for him, the rejection of what is unfit,” Emerson describes such a man as, in another key Coleridgean term, a “method,” a progressive arrangement; a selecting principle, gathering his like to him, wherever he goes. He takes only his own, out of the multiplicity that sweeps and circles around him. . No man can learn what he has not preparation for learning, however near to his eyes is the object.
In engaging Emerson, I obviously place him in a Romantic context. But to focus on the central epistemological and imaginative issues of the Romantic period is not to completely depoliticize Emerson. After all, Coleridge and Wordsworth began as ardent supporters of the French Revolution and, even in their conservatism, remained engaged by sociopolitical issues; indeed, both claimed that they gave more thought to society and politics than to poetics. Still, my central texts remain the standard ones: Nature (1836) and the enduring works Emerson produced between 1837 and 1844 (“The American Scholar,” the Divinity School Address, “Self-Reliance,” “Circles,” “The Transcendentalist,” “Experience,” and “The Poet”).