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Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait [Anglais] [Relié]

Carlos Baker , James R. Mellow


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Amazon.com: 4.8 étoiles sur 5  5 commentaires
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A scholarly work on one of America's greatest philosophers 20 septembre 2003
Par Roy E. Perry - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
In the Epilogue, Carlos Baker writes, "Biography is the study of the whole man in the context of time." Strange, then, that Baker's biography of Emerson begins when Emerson was already in his late twenties. One wonders what happened to Emerson during his first three decades. Nevertheless, Emerson Among the Eccentrics is well worth your time.
In Chapter 31, Baker describes the decision, by Emerson, James Freeman Clarke, and W. H. Channing to write a biography of the late Margaret Fuller, "America's first feminist," who drowned at sea on a return tour of Europe. Emerson, writes Baker, "was certain that whoever undertook the task must pay the closest attention to the personalities who had surrounded Margaret. 'Leave them out,' said he, 'and you leave our Margaret.'"
Emerson's perceptive insight about writing Margaret Fuller's biography is taken to heart by Carlos Baker. His thesis is that one cannot know Ralph Waldo Emerson without paying the closest attention to the personalities who had surrounded him. Therefore, Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait is a biography not only of Emerson, but also of numerous others with whom he associated, such as Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Ellery Channing, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Bronson Alcott, Jones Very, Theodore Parker, and Herman Melville.
The most famous of the New England "Transcendentalists," Emerson resigned his position as a clergyman when his first wife died. He believed that ethics, not theology, metaphysics, or religious doctrine, was the heart of Christianity, and he argued throughout his long life (1803-1882) for self-reliance, nonconformity to superannuated dogmas and liturgies, and for the "priesthood" of the lone individual who needs no mediator between himself and the "World-Soul." He proclaimed that "God" was immanently accessible both in nature and in man's soul.
Emerson's writings are brilliantly provocative, but one often is puzzled by the obscurity of his metaphysics. What exactly IS the "World-Soul"? Although Emerson spoke often of "God," one gets the feeling that his concept of deity was more radically "protestant" than often believed. Was it pantheism, or perhaps even atheism in clever disguise? He certainly rejected traditional forms of faith and praxis.
Indeed, one might ask, To what extent was Emerson truly a "Transcendentalist"? Was this a brand of philosophical idealism, a la the "two-worlds" dichotomy of Platonism? Or was it more like Paul Tillich's "God above the god of theism"? ... a humanistic seeking for wisdom, truth, love, and justice that was more anthropocentric than theocentric? Different readers of Emerson will doubtless come to quite different conclusions.
Carlos Baker, who is perhaps best known for his biography and criticism of Ernest Hemingway, died in 1987. Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrant is his swan song, and a beautiful volume it is, a fitting tribute to one of the greatest thinkers, moralists, and philosophers that America has produced.
11 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Excellent for all who love great literature & great minds 15 juin 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
I read this book after final exams for some reason Emerson and the whole American Renassiance mystic was calling to me...I finished the novel packed my bags and drove straight to Concord, Mass...The tour guides at the various sites I visited where perplexed by my numerous inquires...This book drove such a desire in me to learn and love literature from that period...Well worth the time and the read...and make every effort to visit Concord when your done it adds to the experience...
2 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Lots to amuse and inform 31 décembre 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
As its title suggests, this scrupulously researched tome portrays Emerson as perhaps the most stable and secure (and kindly) among a group of eccentric, sometimes borderline crazy writers and thinkers. A must for any interested in the transcendental movement, or in perhaps its most distinguished man of letters.
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Emerson and his satellites 12 novembre 2013
Par BOB - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
When I decided to read this book I violated my own rule to attempt to read most of an author's works before embarking on a biography of the author. However, the subject matter of this book encompassed a great intersection of cultural pioneers, all living at one time or other within a small territorial radius. Emerson was at the center of this cluster, which also included Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott (whose daughter Louisa May's eccentric upbringing formed the mulch for her novel `Little Women') and others whose works did not survive their century as well--Margaret Fuller, Ellery Channing. This fertile cultural climate, even affecting peripheral literary figures such as Herman Melville, Walt Whitman and Henry James, seemed to have played a very significant role in the developing thought of the United States of the nineteenth century.

I needn't have worried about not having read much of Emerson's works. Although compelling enough as an account of the relationships of these diverse and fascinating individuals, it is sorely lacking in the area of focus on Emerson's writing. My impression was that Emerson has always been regarded more highly in American literature for his significance as an essayist than as a poet. Where in this book are those memorable phrases the `mute gospel', `the infinite lies stretched in smiling repose,' `a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds'? There is hardly a mention of essays such as "Self-Reliance" or "The Over-soul". Yet Baker spends three pages quoting from later poems of Emerson's and even includes the quotes from Wordsworth that inspired them. Also lacking in this book is the significance of Emerson's sermon repudiating the last supper as a sacrament. While not as overtly radical as his friend Thoreau and certainly not as militant as John Brown, Emerson's actions were revolutionary, especially in light of the New England standards of propriety and morality in his day. Much of his significance as a transcendentalist, the features that make him and his cohorts `eccentrics' in the mid-nineteenth century, is glossed over or omitted altogether. Meanwhile, Baker spends half a page describing the arrangements for Emerson's daughter's wedding.

In its favor, the book presents compelling portraits of some fascinating characters. Margaret Fuller was an early feminist who attempted to support herself by her writing. Her intensely passionate nature repelled the staid Emerson, who hardly knew how to react to her aggression. Only after she left America and was enabled to loosen up and live with an Italian and bear his child before they actually married. Tragically, on the return voyage to American all three perished when their ship struck a sandbar within 50 yards of shore off Fire Island, New York. Then there is the idealistic Bronson Alcott, whose lack of ability to provide sufficiently for his family necessitates the older daughters working while still adolescents. Even less practical is Ellery Channing, who ignores his wife and children to pursue impulsive desires to travel, often with funds provided from generous donors such as Emerson. Jones Very is a fundamentalist poet who fancies himself as the Second Coming of Christ and is hospitalized for his claims. Hawthorne seems to be a morose loner who is pleasant enough as a companion to Emerson although his writing never impresses the older mentor. Finally, there is Thoreau, who stays true to his principles to the end like a dutiful monk at the shrine of simplicity.

Emerson himself seems amiable enough as depicted by Baker although he never sufficiently conveys the quality in Emerson that drew so many people to him. To those who did not read his profound essays he would seem, at least based on his portrayal by Baker, to be a pleasant, mild-mannered former preacher that periodically utters pithy, quote-worthy words of wisdom.

There are many interesting anecdotes on some fascinating figures in this book. We see their weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, the divergence of their emotional lives from their idealistic writings and the constrictions of social conventions upon all of them. There are also interminable catalogs of facts and trivia (such as the aforementioned wedding preparations), often of people we never really get to know. While I admire Baker's exhaustive research and commitment to following the threads of multiple lives (it was virtually finished at the time of his death and published posthumously), the book whetted my appetite for a book that really conveyed the person, mind and writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the flavor of life for him and his friends at that place and time.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Emerson, Thoreau, and all their Saints 2 décembre 2010
Par Bruce - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat authentifié par Amazon
It is perhaps the best thing I have read regarding Emerson in the context of his friends.

I recommend it to everyone and anyone.

I also recommend the 30 lectures on CD about Transcendentalism by the professor from Dickinson College, whose name I don't recall.

Bruce Byrolly

Cambridge MD

Dec. 1, 2010
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