February 11, 2013

A good time for writing

The period of time between 1850 and 1855 has sometimes been thought of as a golden age of American literature. (In terms of politics, race and slavery, it was anything but that.) Still, this was a time when great writers bloomed in this country. Think Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville and Whitman.

In 1941, F.O. Matthiessen published an enduring work titled American Renaissance: Art and Experience in the Age of Emerson and Whitman. I actually read through all 600 and some pages of it a few years back, not that I remember a whole lot about it at the moment.

In recent years, predictably, Matthiessen has been criticized for emphasizing white male writers. After all, this was also the time of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Emily Dickinson, not to mention Frederick Douglass.

I am, however, not interested in staging literary show trials in the English department.

Instead, I must admit that I have turned to these writers, most of them anyway, for sustenance over the years and am a better person for it. I have wallowed in Thoreau and Whitman. I am wallowing again in Melville even now. I love Hawthorne's guided tours to the Dark Side.

But one of these writers is still a bit of a mystery to me and over the next spell I'm going to try to "settle accounts," as the Marxists used to say, with him. I am referring to Ralph Waldo Emerson. I can't decide whether he was a wise man or a wind bag or some combination of the above.

So over the next few weeks, as the WV legislature ramps up and things get crazy here, this blog is going to put Waldo through his paces. I'll share some key ideas from his essays and interesting facts about his life and some interesting quotes and see what there is to keep and what to discard.

Stay tuned...

STATE OF THE UNION? Here's one opinion on that.


MEANWHILE, BACK IN BRAZIL, it's raining spiders.


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