Emerson's Memory Loss: Originality, Communality, and the Late Style

ISBN : 9780190842529

Christopher Hanlon
184 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jan 2018
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Ralph Waldo Emerson's dementia, an ordeal that marked his final two decades, has never been a secret among those who study Emerson's life. Still, few have focused on the period of Emerson's decline. Thus, his later thinking has succumbed to a process of critical forgetting too often ignored by scholars if not excluded from his oeuvre altogether. And yet Emerson's late output, composed as his patterns of cognition transformed profoundly, stages a reconsideration of interests that had preoccupied him for decades: the continuum of human thought and the rest of nature, the bearing of the individual toward the collective, the mind's relationship with the body. Emerson's Memory Loss presents an archive of texts documenting Emerson's intellectual, affective, and associative states during his late phase, along with the varying forms of shared connection from which these works emerge. It is also about the way such texts connect Emerson with a stream of thought in America, coursing through the works of other nineteenth-century writers and thinkers adjacent to Emerson, that emphasizes the aggregate over the singular, the social over the solipsistic, the engaged over the distant, and the many over the one. Hanlon attends to manuscripts and publications marking Emerson's collaborations with others which Emerson himself articulated as his most important work-texts written even as his ability to do so independently waned. Hanlon measures its resonance across broader strains of U.S. culture familiar to Margaret Fuller, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and more.


Introduction; ; Chapter 1: Emerson's Memory Loss; Chapter 2: Knowing by Heart; Chapter 3: Streams of Thought; Coda

About the author: 

Christopher Hanlon is Associate Professor of U.S. Literature at Arizona State University and the author of America's England: Atlantic Sectionalism and Antebellum Literature (Oxford, 2007).

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