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Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay called for staunch individualism.

Self-Reliance is an essay written by American Transcendentalist philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains the most solid statement of one of Emerson's repeating themes, the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency, and follow his or her own instincts and ideas. Emerson's ideas are considered a reaction to a commercial identity; he calls for a return to individual identity.

Contents

History

The first hint of the philosophy that would become Self-Reliance was presented by Emerson as part of a sermon in September 1830 a month after his first marriage.[1] His wife was sick with tuberculosis[2] and, as Emerson's biographer Robert D. Richardson wrote, "Emerson's belief in immortality had never been stronger or more desperately needed!"[1]

From 1836 into 1837, Emerson presented a series of lectures on the philosophy of history at Boston's Masonic Temple. These lectures were never published separately but many of his thoughts in these lectures were later used in "Self-Reliance" and several other essays.[3] Later lectures by Emerson, especially the "Divinity School Address", led to public censure for Emerson's radical views; the staunch defense of individualism in "Self-Reliance" may be a reaction to that censure.[4]

Self-Reliance was first published in his 1841 collection, Essays: First Series.

Analysis

Emerson presupposes that the mind is initially subject to an unhappy nonconformism.[5] However, "Self-Reliance" is not anti-society or anti-community. Instead, Emerson advocates self-reliance as a starting point, not as a goal.[6]

References

  1. ^ a b Richardson, Robert D. Jr. Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1995: 99. ISBN 0-520-08808-5.
  2. ^ McAleer, John. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Days of Encounter. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1984: 105. ISBN 0316553417.
  3. ^ Richardson, Robert D. Jr. Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1995: 257. ISBN 0-520-08808-5
  4. ^ Richardson, Robert D. Jr. Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1995: 300. ISBN 0-520-08808-5.
  5. ^ Buell, Lawrence. Emerson. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003: 64. ISBN 0-674-01139-2.
  6. ^ Richardson, Robert D. Jr. Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1995: 322. ISBN 0-520-08808-5.

External links

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