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Giving the boot to the Sage of Concord

Posted by Christopher Shea  January 22, 2010 06:30 AM

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Ralph Waldo Emerson, as canonical a writer in American literature as there is, ought to instead be kicked out of the curriculum, argue two English professors at the University of Hartford. In reading the author of "Self-Reliance" and "Nature," they write, the typical English student "gains very little from the exercise other than a rough appreciation for what it must be like to sit in the company of a boorish deity."

One problem, among many, is his "obscurantist, peripatetic prose."

"Consider this koan," write William Major and Bryan Sinche:

It is essential to a true theory of nature and of man, that it should contain somewhat progressive. Uses that are exhausted or that may be, and facts that end in the statement, cannot be all that is true of this brave lodging wherein man is harbored, and wherein all his faculties find appropriate and endless exercise. And all the uses of nature admit of being summed in one, which yields the activity of man an infinite scope.
"That," the professors conclude, "is the prose of a crazy person."

And the Emerson of "Self-Reliance," the add, merely "reminds our students of what they already know: They are the center of the world." Let their parents tell them that, Major and Sinche say, and have the students spend more time on "Moby Dick" and "Walden."

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Ralph Waldo Emerson takes a drubbing
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