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Emerson's Life in Science: The Culture of Truth

Laura Dassow Walls

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ISBN 10: 0801440440 / ISBN 13: 9780801440441
Published by Cornell University Press, 2003
Condition: Good Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Emerson's Life in Science: The Culture of ...

Publisher: Cornell University Press

Publication Date: 2003

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Good

Edition: 1.

About this title


Ralph Waldo Emerson has traditionally been cast as a dreamer and a mystic, concerned with the ideals of transcendentalism rather than the realities of contemporary science and technology. In Laura Dassow Walls's view Emerson was a leader of the secular avant-garde in his day. He helped to establish science as the popular norm of truth in America and to modernize American popular thought. In addition, he became a hero to a post-Darwinian generation of Victorian Dissenters, exemplifying the strong connection between transcendentalism and later nineteenth-century science.In his early years as a minister, Emerson read widely in natural philosophy (or physics), chemistry, geology, botany, and comparative anatomy. When he left the church, it was to seek the truths written in the book of nature rather than in books of scripture. While visiting the Paris Museum of Natural History during his first European tour, Emerson experienced a revelation so intense that he declared, "I will be a naturalist." Once he was back in the United States, his first step in realizing this ambition was to deliver a series of lectures on natural science. These lectures formed the basis for his first publication, Nature (1836), and his writings ever after reflected his intense and continuing interest in science.Walls finds that Emerson matured just as the concept of "the two cultures" emerged, when the disciplines of literature and science were divorcing each other even as he called repeatedly for their marriage. Consequently, Walls writes, half of Emerson's thought has been invisible to us: science was central to Emerson, to his language, to the basic organization of his career. In Emerson's Life in Science, she makes the case that no study of literary history can be complete without embracing science as part of literature. Conversely, she maintains, no history of science is complete unless we consider the role played by writers of literature who helped to install science in the popular imagination.

From the Inside Flap:

"Emerson's Life in Science has the potential to make a significant impact on Emerson studies and on our understanding of the development of Romanticism as a whole. Laura Dassow Walls has a brilliant command of Emerson’s scientific sources and a very perceptive recognition of the centrality of science to his thought. Walls’s book should place scientific issues front and center in Emerson studies."-David M. Robinson, Oregon State University

"Emerson's Life in Science is one of the best books about Emerson to appear in the past two decades. As Laura Dassow Walls states at the outset, the notion that science, broadly understood, lies at the heart of Emerson's work is 'counterintuitive,' but she makes her case and then some. She has produced a full intellectual biography of Emerson. In its breadth of scholarship, boldness of argument, comprehensiveness, and intellectual force it is without peer. It immediately establishes Walls in the vanguard of Emerson studies."-Joel Porte, Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters, Cornell University

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