Emerson's English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor

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9781441161406: Emerson's English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor

Metaphors are ubiquitous and yet―or, for that very reason―go largely unseen. We are all variously susceptible to a blindness or blurry vision of metaphors; yet even when they are seen clearly, we are left to situate the ambiguities, conflations and contradictions they regularly present―logically, aesthetically and morally.

David LaRocca's book serves as a set of ‘reminders' of certain features of the natural history of our language―especially the tropes that permeate and define it. As part of his investigation, LaRocca turns to Ralph Waldo Emerson's only book on a single topic, English Traits (1856), which teems with genealogical and generative metaphors―blood, birth, plants, parents, family, names and race.

In the first book-length study of English Traits in over half a century, LaRocca considers the presence of metaphors in Emerson's fertile text―a unique work in his expansive corpus, and one that is regularly overlooked. As metaphors are encountered in Emerson's book, and drawn from a long history of usage in work by others, a reader may realize (or remember) what is inherent and encoded in our language, but rarely seen: how metaphors circulate in speech and through texts to become the lifeblood of thought. A reader may come away believing that metaphors cannot be skimmed off a text without loss―that they are ineluctably part and parcel of its meanings.

In hybrid fashion, LaRocca endeavors to employ some of the strategies and methods of the natural scientific curator as well as the literary-philosophical florilegist to offer new reflections on Emerson's exceptional, anomalous book. In the wake of LaRocca's study, and the prismatic remarks he has collected, we may take note that a change in metaphors entails a change in morals. English Traits serves as an example of how, for example, natural scientific metaphors are especially salient for their moral import and effects.

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About the Author:

David LaRocca (Ph.D Vanderbilt University) is Writer-in-Residence in the Frederick Lewis Allen Room at the New York Public Library, USA, and Coordinating Producer and Consulting Editor for the ongoing documentary film project The Intellectual Portrait Series. He studied philosophy, film, rhetoric, and religion at SUNY-Buffalo, UC Berkeley, Vanderbilt University, and at Harvard University, where he was Sinclair Kennedy Traveling Fellow in the United Kingdom. Author of On Emerson (Wadsworth, 2003) and editor of Stanley Cavell's book Emerson's Transcendental Etudes (Stanford University Press, 2003), he writes regularly on topics in aesthetics, literary theory, and film. His essays have been published in volumes such as Nietzsche e L'America (Recensioni Filosofiche, Pisa 2005), New Morning: Emerson in the Twenty-first Century (SUNY Press 2008), Emerson for the Twenty-First Century (University of Delaware Press, 2010).

Review:

“This immensely learned, deeply thoughtful and far-ranging book helps re-situate Emerson in his own time, and in ours. More than just a work of scholarship, it rises to the level of philosophical investigation. It is also witty, playful and, in its own strange way, original.” ―Phillip Lopate, editor of Writing New York and The Art of the Personal Essay

“David LaRocca treats Emerson's English Traits with the philosophical seriousness and sophistication the book has long deserved, but never before so richly received. The result is not a conventional academic study, but rather a many-faceted Emersonian reflection by quotation on such topics as evolution, originality, liberalism, American identity, self-renaming, and the fecund nature of metaphor itself. This is a valuable contribution to the re-assessment of Emerson's most neglected work, and a distinctive example of creative hermeneutical engagement.” ―Neal Dolan, Assistant Professor of English, University of Toronto, Canada

“In this elegantly written, scrupulously researched book, David La Rocca has convincingly demonstrated that, rather than locating a restricted area of inquiry, Natural History constitutes the grounding precondition for Emersonian thinking. Emerson's English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor will surely prove an indispensable reference for undergraduates and graduates alike.” ―Donald E. Pease, Professor of English and The Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, Dartmouth College, USA

“In this wonderful book, David LaRocca illuminates Emerson's mind by, in effect, pursuing his methods. With a vast range of reference, running from Wittgenstein to Darwin and from Coleridge to Montaigne, and an engagingly 'album'-like structure, the book traces Emersonian connections between topics as remote as the origins of evolutionary theory, the making of commonplace books and the rise of the American anti-slavery movement. It offers a glitteringly many-sided examination of the evolution of Emerson's deeply creative mind in its efforts to arrive at an understanding, not only of England, but also of the nascent American culture that it was in process of helping to form.” ―Bernard Harrison, Emeritus E. E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy in the University of Utah and Emeritus Professor of the University of Sussex, and author of Inconvenient Fictions

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Book Description Continuum Publishing Corporation, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Metaphors are ubiquitous and yet-or, for that very reason-go largely unseen. We are all variously susceptible to a blindness or blurry vision of metaphors; yet even when they are seen clearly, we are left to situate the ambiguities, conflations and contradictions they regularly present-logically, aesthetically and morally. David LaRocca s book serves as a set of reminders of certain features of the natural history of our language-especially the tropes that permeate and define it. As part of his investigation, LaRocca turns to Ralph Waldo Emerson s only book on a single topic, English Traits (1856), which teems with genealogical and generative metaphors-blood, birth, plants, parents, family, names and race. In the first book-length study of English Traits in over half a century, LaRocca considers the presence of metaphors in Emerson s fertile text-a unique work in his expansive corpus, and one that is regularly overlooked. As metaphors are encountered in Emerson s book, and drawn from a long history of usage in work by others, a reader may realize (or remember) what is inherent and encoded in our language, but rarely seen: how metaphors circulate in speech and through texts to become the lifeblood of thought. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9781441161406

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Book Description Continuum Publishing Corporation, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Metaphors are ubiquitous and yet-or, for that very reason-go largely unseen. We are all variously susceptible to a blindness or blurry vision of metaphors; yet even when they are seen clearly, we are left to situate the ambiguities, conflations and contradictions they regularly present-logically, aesthetically and morally. David LaRocca s book serves as a set of reminders of certain features of the natural history of our language-especially the tropes that permeate and define it. As part of his investigation, LaRocca turns to Ralph Waldo Emerson s only book on a single topic, English Traits (1856), which teems with genealogical and generative metaphors-blood, birth, plants, parents, family, names and race. In the first book-length study of English Traits in over half a century, LaRocca considers the presence of metaphors in Emerson s fertile text-a unique work in his expansive corpus, and one that is regularly overlooked. As metaphors are encountered in Emerson s book, and drawn from a long history of usage in work by others, a reader may realize (or remember) what is inherent and encoded in our language, but rarely seen: how metaphors circulate in speech and through texts to become the lifeblood of thought. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9781441161406

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