American worlds since Emerson by David Marr

By David Marr

Lines the huge effect of Emerson on American literary and political proposal

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P. Blackmur: Against the Control of False Names 134 An Age of True Pyrrhonism 170 Chapter Five: Shadows of Democracy 174 Catch-22: The End of the Liberated Place 175 Ralph Ellison 187 Epilogue 210 Notes 215 Works Cited 219 Index 231 Page ix Acknowledgments This book is about some of the intellectual origins of a politically dangerous timeour own. Given my topicthe political danger that comes from the continuing eclipse of the politicalit is with great pleasure that I gratefully acknowledge the many benefits of citizenship I have enjoyed in one of the American worlds that fall outside the scope of these studies.

Thoreau 1966, 202) Thoreau himself, however, indirectly acknowledges what a circus-freak such writing is. It not only fails to qualify Thoreau as a ''linguistic scientist," as Ziff correctly remarks (Ziff 1981, 202, 209); more important, it perfectly exemplifies that "infirmity of our natures" which leads us simultaneously into two or more cases from which there may be no escape. For it is that infirmity which, according to Thoreau, sets up the vain project of attempting to unite word and thing in perfect organic wholeness.

Dewey 1958, 35) The force of Blackmur's remark about getting "a mastery of our subject" derives, not from an invocation of a socially empty aestheticism, Page 15 but from an awareness, born of long experience, of the arduousness entailed in mastery. Blackmur was by no means certain that a "correct account" of human experience in the modern age was within our grasp. The "cult of experience in American writing," diagnosed almost a half-century ago by Philip Rahv, has been only partly a matter of American writing historically alternating between plunges into, and withdrawals from, experience (Rahv 1969, 2137).

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