Synopses & Reviews
How do I live a good life, one that is deeply personal and sensitive to others? John T. Lysaker suggests that those who take this question seriously need to reexamine the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In philosophical reflections on topics such as genius, divinity, friendship, and reform, Lysaker explores "self-culture" or the attempt to remain true to one's deepest commitments. He argues that being true to ourselves requires recognition of our thoroughly dependent and relational nature. Lysaker guides readers from simple self-absorption toward a more fulfilling and responsive engagement with the world.
"... inspired and inspiring, insightful and insight-provoking.... a remarkable and thought-provoking book.... What sets the work apart from its predecessors is its directly engaging touch: defying institutional conventions and constitutional preoccupations, Lysaker writes about and deals with Emerson in a personally involving manner. These essays in 'eloquent life' are beautifully in line with Emerson's view of culture as 'art of life'. The book is written in an eloquent and erudite style.... I am not sure whether Emersonian self-culture could be much more inspiringly advanced." --Heikki A. Kovalainen, University of Tampere, TRANSACTIONS C S PEIRCE SOC, Volume 44 Number 3 Su 2008 Indiana University Press
"Proponents of standards reform in America's schools would benefit from the understanding of Emersonian individualism offered by John T. Lysaker in this book." --William Proefriedt, Teachers College Record
"It should be apparent... that this book is written in a profoundly Emersonian spirit, which means it is written in a spirit that refuses to back down from Emerson's provocations.... [and] as a provocation to think along with him, it must be judged a success." --Corey McCall, Elmira College, Nov. 17, 2008
"... this book is written in a profoundly Emersonian spirit, which means it is written in a spirit that refuses to back down from Emerson's provocations, nor does it proceed through attempts to domesticate his language. It represents a laudable attempt to think along with Emerson, and to recommend him as a companion with whom to think.... as a provocation to think along with him, it must be judged a success." --Corey McCall, Elmira College, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (on-line), November 17, 2008
"At the end as at the beginning, then, there is much to learn from and to think about in this wide-ranging and important book." --Russell Goodman, University of New Mexico, Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. 22, No. 4, 2008
"A subtle, probing, and insightful reading of an author who appropriately becomes more powerful, less familiar, and more challenging than the figure whom so many of us have perhaps presumed an all too ready and settled familiarity." --Vincent Colapietro, Penn State University
"... complex, yet accessible to non-specialists.
In the final analysis, Lysaker himself achieves in Emerson and Self-Culture and 'eloquence that can agitate.' Not only does he outline a series of nuanced approaches to self-culture in Emerson; like Emerson, he rhetorically provokes us towards greater possibilities for ourselves and our relations." --Michael Jonik, University at Albany, Emerson Society Papers, Vol. 20.1 Spring 2009
"A detailed propagation of Emersonianism, lively and sometimes personal in its prose, satisfying in its open, un--ironic commitment to a great precursor, and praiseworthy in its address to a topic that extends far beyond academic matters." --Mark Bauerlein, Emory University Indiana University Press Indiana University Press
"[This] book is excellent for those who seek a deeper understanding of Emerson or readers interested in concepts of individuality and self-exploration. It is essential reading for philosophers interested in the renewed debate over Emerson's philosophy." --Marcus B. Schulzke, SUNY Albany, Foucault Studies, No. 7, September 2009
In "Spiritual Laws," Emerson tells us: "Human character evermore publishes itself." In other words, wherever we go, whatever we do, whether speaking, working, conducting business, taking walks, or visiting friends, the state of our character is announced. Through an extended reading of Emerson's corpus, "Emerson and Self-Culture" articulates and defends a vision for how one might render such publications eloquent, that is, expressive of a life that one considers worth living, even praiseworthy. The book is thus really a twofold project. On the one hand, it offers a thematic reading of Emerson's work, which considers themes like genius, quotation, the divine, self-trust, friendship, and reform. And it does so by surveying a broad range of Emerson's writings, including the middle and later lectures, while also offering close readings of key essays like "Self-Reliance," "Experience," and "Friendship." On the other hand, "Emerson and Self-Culture" purports to be a work of philosophy in its own right, both in its conception of how one should read and engage thinkers of Emerson's stature and in its defense and occasional criticism of Emerson's approach to self-culture. At a time when 'things are once again in the saddle,' "Emerson and Self-Culture" offers us a way to reclaim lives of depth, integrity, and if we're lucky, beauty and goodness.
A personal and persuasive reading of Emerson as a philosopher
About the Author
John T. Lysaker is Associate Professor and Head of the Philosophy Department at the University of Oregon. He is author of You Must Change Your Life: Poetry, Philosophy, and the Birth of Sense.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
1. Taking Emerson Personally
2. The Genius of Nature
3. Reflecting Eloquence
4. Divining Becoming
5. On the Edges of Our Souls
6. Commended Strangers, Beautiful Enemies
7. Tending to Reform