Emerson begins The American Scholar by declaring, I accept the topic which not only usage, but the nature of our association, seem to prescribe to this day the AMERICAN SCHOLAR (53). These opening lines are incredibly specific; the atmosphere in which he finds himself has formed the topic of his discourse. The prescriptive nature of his lecture, then, implies that no other topic would have been as pertinent as his is. As the address continues, Emerson guides the reader to a clearly defined picture of the American Scholar: In the right state, he is Man Thinking (54). Just as this address establishes a currency in the opening paragraphs, so too does the American Scholar. He is defined by his own thoughts, in that moment, discarding past thoughts or those of others. In this line, Emerson also reveals to the reader the availability of that relation to one's thought. He does not specify who may become the American Scholar or, more significantly, who may not.
[...] In American Scholar”, thought leads directly to action and constructs our relationship to the universe. Emerson completely revises that definition in Poet.” Thought has become a prison; we are unable to make sense of it until the Poet liberates us from our fetters. Thus the detachment of the later essay serves not only to separate us from its content, but also from ourselves. What we are ordered to take in American Scholar” is arrogated to the Poet, and our hope of an unmediated relationship to the universe is completely dispelled. [...]
[...] That displacement serves to distance us from nature, and ultimately from ourselves, indicating the secondhand access that clashes with the unmediated access described in American Scholar.” If nature is used as a symbol in language itself consequently reflects that distance. Nature's offering herself to the Poet as a “picture- language” leads to the creation of types; and Emerson claims that the second value assigned to the object supersedes the or original, value. Thus language, in its very creation, constructs and represents the distance between nature and our perception of it. [...]
[...] He shows us the classification we were once delegated in American Scholar”, and consequently our understanding of the universe is inevitably diminished. The notion of a barrier that separates us from the universe explodes into complete enclosure as the essay continues. Emerson claims that we are trapped by our own inadequate thoughts, like poor shepherd, who, blinded and lost in the snow-storm, perishes in a drift within a few feet of his cottage door On the brink of the waters of life and truth, we are miserably dying” (463). [...]
[...] Here he gives the audience a clear outline of the lecture; the methodological approach to becoming the American Scholar makes the lecture itself both simple and accessible. He explains that scholar] learns that he who has mastered any law in his private thoughts, is master to that extent of all men whose language he speaks, and of all into whose language his own can be translated” (64). While one's own experience formulates the structure of one's private thoughts, he finds that his insight, which each man may discover and utilize, makes possible the comprehension of others' thoughts; more remarkably, he finds that his thoughts are the thoughts of others. [...]
[...] He sarcastically adds, poor] sun themselves in the great man's light, and feel it to be their own element. They cast the dignity of man from their downtrod selves upon the shoulders of a hero, and will perish to add one drop of blood to make that great heart beat” (66). The poor are content to watch on, as the great man is “enlarged and glorified”; the passivity of “sunning” oneself in another's light is both shameful and avoidable. They feel that light to be of their own element because, of course, it is; they contribute the drops of blood that make the hero's heart beat, either unable or unwilling to realize that they are capable of using it to make their own hearts beat. [...]
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