They are free, and they make free”; the poet “unlocks our chains, and admits us to a new scene.” -The Poet
Ralph Waldo Emerson
" The Making of Self-Reliance"
Emerson wrote a collection of journal entries about his philosophy on life and individualism.
slaveholder were in stark contrast. But certainly, Emerson's later writing was more interested in relationships among people, and ethical behavior, than early works like "Self-Reliance" may indicate. Nevertheless, the worldview expressed in "Self-Reliance" is not, I would contend, one of radical separation of the individual from the rest of the universe, though Emerson has sometimes been accused of that view.
In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance”, he tells us that once people are able to be independent, they should be an individual who believes in themselves and does not conform to society.
In the age before the internet, TV, movies and novels, one of the most popular forms of entertainment was the lecture. Americans would pack auditoriums and lyceums to hear speakers hold forth on topics from science to religion. In the half century between the 1830s and the 1880s, no speaker was more popular than Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Sage of Concord.
Trained as a Unitarian minister, Emerson ultimately became America's top secular preacher and the father of the philosophical movement known as transcendentalism. Emerson believed that true spiritual revelation came from instinct, and encouraged people to slow down, listen up and trust the voice within. "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within," Emerson wrote in his essay , "more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages."
Emerson's uniquely American philosophies were not without fault. His me-first, go-your-own-way boosterism could be interpreted as self-centeredness, a trait Americans are often accused of having. In other words, one critic wrote, "Emerson must be held blameless for the fact that his exaltations on individual get-up-and-go have ended, in the fullness of time, by producing George Steinbrenner." His philosophies never came up with a satisfactory answer for why really terrible, evil things happen in the world, and whether a wicked-minded person should also accept Emerson's exhortations to "trust thyself."
But as his friend and contemporary Walt Whitman, said, "the best part of Emersonianism is, it breeds the giant that destroys itself." You can dislike Emerson, turn against him, toss his works aside and set out on your own path. Just the way he told you to.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was known first as an orator. Emerson converted many of his orations in to essays. A student of Emerson's essays will also want to study Emerson's since he often worked out in his journal entries ideas that later appear in his orations and essays.
We've organized this site to provide both original content and links toother material on the internet for study of the Transcendentalists: RalphWaldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and others. We'll be adding more original content over time, so keep visiting and check for what we've added.
: this sectionincludes background material on the philosophical, religious and literarymovement called Transcendentalism. You'll find definitions and descriptions byEmerson and others in the Transcendentalist circle, as well as encyclopediadefinitions and a summary,
L. Tom Perry Special Collections contains many early publications by the Transcendentalists, from works by major figures of the movement like Ralph Waldo Emerson (including his seminal essay, Nature), Henry David Thoreau (a first edition of Walden is pictured here), and Theodore Parker; to lectures given at the Concord School of Philosophy.
These works are complemented by the collection, which encompasses the work of her father, Transcendentalist philosopher Amos Bronson Alcott. Special Collections’ newest acquisitions of works by Transcendentalist writers include a 1903 anthology, The Poets of Transcendentalism, which collects many of the poems printed in the short-lived periodical The Dial, and the first edition of Bronson Alcott’s memorial collection Ralph Waldo Emerson: An Estimate of his Character and Genius (1882).
Some listed here may now be out of print or unavailable. (Sacks)
Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" is often the first or only exposure students get to Emerson's thought. Here are some resources to help understand this essay:
An essay introducing the background and context of Transcendentalism, for help in understanding where Emerson's ideas came from.
From Emerson himself, with some dictionary and other simple definitions listed as well.
Basic information on Transcendentalism - links to the two items above plus more.
- HTML searchable copy of the text at
Ann Woodlief's excellent introduction to the Emerson essay, Self-Reliance.
An article by Alfred I.
: OtherTranscendentalists and people close to that circle, including Margaret Fuller,Theodore Parker, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, A. Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott,Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Ripley, F. B. Sanborn, Jones Very, T. W. Higginson,O. B. Frothingham, William Ellery Channing, Lydia Maria Child, Moncure Conwayand many more.
Self-Reliance Summary Self-Reliance, first published in Essays (First Series) in 1841, is widely considered to be the definitive statement of Ralph Waldo Emerson's.[Essay] Emerson's Argument for Self-reliance as a Significant Factor in a Flourishing Life Kathleen O'Dwyer* Abstract Emerson's philosophy of self-reliance, self-reference and self-responsibility has a relevance and.
Looks at the problem of selfhood in Emerson's essay and relates that to relevance today, especially in religious belief in our increasingly-secular age.
A short essay, some selections from the essay, and some excellent questions for thinking about Emerson's ideas.
A short introduction to American culture about 1841, looking at Emerson's essay and its relationship to ideas of democracy, culture and the masses.
A Unitarian Universalist minister muses about the position of Emerson in that faith today, where he's often considered a "prophet of religious liberalism." - about the book and its author
- by Bryan Caplan - Kristen Rosenfeld - Piper S.