"The Market-place is the Louvre of the Common People"—Critical & Commercial ValueSystems in the Early & Late Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jaeckle, Dominic. 2021. "The Market-place is the Louvre of the Common People"—Critical & Commercial ValueSystems in the Early & Late Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Presenting a unique revision of the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), this thesis considers Emerson’s practical and theoretical interest in quotation andappropriation relative to his developing position on American political economy and the intellectual outcomes of antebellum economic expansionism. I will reflect on the ways in which recent scholarship has sought to examine the political and economic investments of Emerson’s authorship through his conceptualizations of the act ofreading; and examine Emerson’s relationship with cultural, critical and commercial value systems relative to his historic, political and socioeconomic contexts. Emerson’s analysis of the mechanisms and responsibilities of literary criticism depends upon the coalescence of capitalist and culturalist imperatives. I will investigate the ways in which the intersection of criticism and commerce impacted his use of metaphor, ideas of critical exchange and intellectual proprietorship; and effects his efforts to conceptualize what he called the ‘mechanics of literature.’§ Reading across two major periods of activity—1836 to 1850 and 1860 to 1875—the alliance of Emerson’s early and later works will be foregrounded in order to consider the development and coherency of his thinking. His cumulative efforts to explore the cultural, political and practical effectivity of literary criticism will be read as an indicator of the value Emerson placed on market-based economics and as foundation for an examination of his ideas of cultural progress and critical practice more widely. Through the act of quotation and appropriation, in particular, the political implications of Emerson’s thinking are underscored by an identification of the importance of context and proprietorship as determiners of cultural and critical value. I will argue that this position is informed by Emerson’s receptivity to the ascendance of market ideologies in the nineteenth century, and both underpins Emerson’s conceptualization of the act of reading and effects the ways in which Emerson has subsequently been read in twentieth and twenty-first century American Studies.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.25602/GOLD.00029968

Keywords:

American Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Studies, Appropriation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature

Date:

31 March 2021

Item ID:

29968

Date Deposited:

19 Apr 2021 16:06

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 18:32

URI:

https://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/29968

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