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XenocitizensIlliberal Ontologies in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Jason Berger

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823287758

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823287758.001.0001

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Emerson’s Operative Mood

Emerson’s Operative Mood

(p.33) Chapter 1 Emerson’s Operative Mood

Jason Berger

Fordham University Press

This chapter reexamines Ralph Waldo Emerson’s early thinking about the relation of the individual to universal Reason, revealing that Emerson’s writing is philosophically consistent in its insistence that the human self is “operative” in form and function. Shifting our conceptual perspective from a traditional Matthiessenian notion of an “optative mood” to something of a Badiouian “operative mood” opens up new ways to consider how, across the early works, the Emersonian self is shaped by interactions with an impersonal Other as well as the ways these interactions influence the self’s relation to historical landscapes. Intervening in scholarship on Emersonian personhood by scholars such as Sharon Cameron, Branka Arsić, and Donald Pease, this chapter offers an original version of Emerson’s political vision, one that finds in his theory of “religious sentiment” a model for the self that may reframe all of Emerson’s corpus.

Keywords:   Ralph Waldo Emerson, impersonal, nineteenth-century American literature, religion, transcendentalism

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