Northern Illinois University Press

Emerson and Power

Creative Antagonism in the Nineteenth Century

Michael Lopez

"A revolutionary evaluation.... No one before Lopez has so successfully exposed Emerson's pragmatic dimensions."—New England Quarterly

In this revisionist analysis, Lopez presents a "detrancendentalized" Emerson—a tougher, timelier, more controversial writer, whose fundamental belief in creative antagonism predates Nietzsche's philosophy of power. Placing him within a post-idealist tradition—an intellectual context that has often been ignored—Lopez portrays Emerson as a representative nineteenth-century thinker with important links to Carlyle, Nietzsche, William James, and Henry Adams.

Lopez examines the ever-widening spectrum of Emerson's criticism to show that Emerson can best be understood as a writer deeply concerned with practicality, power, and the issues raised by the post-Hegelian philosophy of his time. While not denying the transcendentalist elements of Emerson's thought, Lopez points out the common ground between Emerson and mainstream nineteenth-century thinkers and illuminates crucial connections that critics have generally been reluctant to acknowledge.

Reasserting the centrality of Emerson's essays, Lopez's overview reconsiders the journals, letters, and early lectures and offers new readings of "Fate," Nature, The Conduct of Life, and the neglected, late work Society and Solitude. Emerson's thought has traditionally been defined in terms of evolving phases; Lopez finds an alternate, more deeply rooted pattern—a psychology of empowerment that abides, unchanged, through Emerson's entire career.

(1996) 269 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-196-4
cloth $35.50

Table of Contents

1 The Anti-Emerson Tradition
2 The Doctrine of Use
3 The Uses of Failure
4 Extravagance
5 Working and Being Worked Upon
6 Detranscendentalizing Emerson
7 The Rhetoric of War
Works Cited

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-196-4
cloth $35.50