New PDF release: American Metempsychosis: Emerson, Whitman, and the New

By John Michael Corrigan

ISBN-10: 082324234X

ISBN-13: 9780823242344

"The transmigration of souls is not any fantasy. i'd it have been, yet women and men are just part human." With those phrases, Ralph Waldo Emerson confronts a hindrance that illuminates the formation of yankee individualism: to conform and turn into absolutely human calls for a heightened engagement with background. american citizens, Emerson argues, needs to observe history's chronology in themselves--because their very own minds and our bodies are its evolving record.

Whereas scholarship has tended to lessen the paranormal underpinnings of Emerson's inspiration of the self, his depictions of "the metempsychosis of nature" exhibit deep roots in mystical traditions from Hinduism and Buddhism to Platonism and Christian esotericism. In essay after essay, Emerson makes use of metempsychosis as an open-ended template to appreciate human development.

In Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman transforms Emerson's belief of metempsychotic selfhood into an expressly poetic occasion. His imaginative and prescient of transmigration viscerally celebrates the poet's skill to imagine and stay in different our bodies; his American poet seeks to include the total kingdom into his personal individual in order that he can communicate for each guy and girl.

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Extra resources for American Metempsychosis: Emerson, Whitman, and the New Poetry

Example text

From an individual perspective, one sees creation, the emergence of a new becoming, but from another greater, more expansive perspective, this becoming is a reformation of all the objects that came before it. Poetry and the New Alchemy For Goethe, the work of the age was to infuse science with spirituality, and Hegel certainly developed this aim into one of the most fully systematized philosophies of the nineteenth century. Emerson’s efforts can be seen in conjunction to theirs; he presents metempsychosis as an ever-­ restless alchemy, where material elements are mixed together to produce original substances.

The poet, who merely speaks today, using symbols as his expression, may acquire the ability for a heightened, poetic activity in his next transmigration. Emerson’s combination of metempsychosis and metamorphosis also powerfully exemplifies the modern Idealist value of inwardness, how the immanent life potentially guides the fate of the external series. While most men and women “live on the surface,” the poet’s “intimate” love of signs anticipates the prospect of deepening and enriching the inner life not just of the individual, but of the species in general.

In the opening lines of “Experience” (1844), Emerson invokes the metempsychotic self of “History” as just such a site of spiritual and psychic crisis. Directly addressing his readers, he declares that we, like the souls in Plato’s Myth of Er in the last book of The Republic, have been purged of all our knowledge of past lives by Lethe’s waters. Metempsychosis, in this case, evokes a dilemma of consciousness not easily answered, for doubt permeates human awareness. Consequently, we glide ghostlike through nature in search of self-­k nowledge so as to answer a most basic question: Where do we find ourselves?

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American Metempsychosis: Emerson, Whitman, and the New Poetry by John Michael Corrigan


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