Cover: The Emerson Museum in PAPERBACK

The Emerson Museum

Practical Romanticism and the Pursuit of the Whole

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Product Details


$38.00 • £30.95 • €34.00

ISBN 9780674248847

Publication Date: 04/25/1997


304 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

2 halftones


A piece of important and original scholarship. Brown’s research into Emerson’s experience of natural science in Paris is the most thorough study to date of this moment in Emerson’s intellectual development. The thesis is intriguing: ‘Emerson realized in the Museum that nature was natural history’… This museum–natural science context often proves to have supreme explanatory force (as when it explains Emerson’s use of the term ‘caducous’ and corrects earlier interpretations of it)… The Emerson Museum is a significant contribution to Emerson scholarship and merits a careful reading.—Mark Bauerlein, Cross Currents

Brown argues that the style of Emerson’s essays enacts [a] repeated drama of practical transcendence: each essay in a series, and every argument, paragraph, and even sentence within each essay stands as a partial view of reality which is gained only at the cost of other possible views and which in turn must be discarded to enable others. Brown insightfully traces a series of concepts that Emerson used to theorize this process of action—history, biography, character, succession, surprise, compensation, fate, criticism, skepticism, and belief—and in tracing these concepts Brown offers cogent readings of many provocative and intractable passages from Emerson’s essays… The Emerson Museum presents a valuable new theoretical and historical approach to Emerson while grounding that approach in a supple and sophisticated responsiveness to the complex acts of writing through which Emerson’s philosophy emerges.—James M. Albrecht, New England Quarterly

In 1833, during his visit to Europe, Emerson visited the Jardin de Plantes in Paris, the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle to give it its grander title… Brown’s point is that the museum provides us with a way into certain of Emerson’s central preoccupations; it acts as a case study, an image, even… The museum acts, one could say, as a visual embodiment of Emerson’s whole theory of vision, which is what above all Brown wishes to explore in this illuminating and vigorously argued book.—Richard Francis, American Studies in Europe

The Emerson Museum is a significant contribution to the trend toward the interdisciplinary subjects in literary studies. In The Emerson Museum, Brown re-imagines the interrelation of literature and science and accomplishes a convincing fusion between contemporary cultural practice and Emerson’s legacy. The Emerson Museum culminates at the compelling proposition that natural history served as Emerson’s vehicle for converting European romanticism into a distinctly America ideology of science and economy.—Thom Conroy, American Studies International

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