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Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Ever-Evolving Art of Self-Reliant Reading

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abstract
Self-reliance is a significant component of contemporary Emerson scholarship, but few scholars have examined the way in which reading--almost unarguably Emerson's favorite pastime--can contribute to this canonical Emersonian idea. By delineating a passage in Emerson's journal which purports to entail the "secret" to self-reliance, I suggest that a key aspect of generating self-reliance is making your "supposed deficiencies redundancy" (Emerson, Journals VII: 521), which is the gradual abdication of self-doubt, and that this secret is manifest in passages that describe the act of reading throughout Emerson's Essays. However, that secret--like many of Emerson's concepts--evolves over his career and takes on new shades of meaning, and my project attempts to trace that evolution to arrive at a sketch of how reading can inform self-reliance. I use the essays "History", "The Poet", and "Experience" to demonstrate this evolution and also self-reliant reading's limitations. Ultimately, I hope to suggest that it's these very limitations that create the possibility for ethical conduct in an indeterminate world, thereby demonstrating the necessity of reading for living "the good life".
subject
19th Century American Literature
Ethics
Literary Theory
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Reading
contributor
Barton, Theodore Rend (author)
Wilson, Eric G (committee chair)
Hena, Omaar (committee member)
Maine, Barry (committee member)
date
2013-01-09T09:35:19Z (accessioned)
2013-01-09T09:35:19Z (available)
2012 (issued)
degree
English (discipline)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/37670 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
title
Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Ever-Evolving Art of Self-Reliant Reading
type
Thesis

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