“The American Scholar” is an Essay by ‘Ralph Waldo Emerson’, which emphasizes the particular role that nature has in a Scholar’s development. This essay was first delivered as a lecture, Originally titled ‘An Oration Delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 1837’. Emerson published the speech under its original title as a pamphlet later that same year and republished it in 1838. In 1841, he included the essay in his book Essay, but changed its title to “The American Scholar”. This essay is regarded as ‘the First Clarian of An American literary Renaissance.
About Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson is America’s one of the foremost writers. He was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist, and Poet. He led the Transcendentalist movement of the middle of the 19th Century. He is a great thinker and philosopher too. He has won many laurels and Awards for literary achievements. Emerson wrote most of his important essays as lectures first and then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays, “Essay: First Series” and “Essays: Second Series”. They include well-known essays – ‘Self Reliance, ‘The Over-Soul’, ‘Circles’, The Poet’ and ‘Experience’. Friedrich Nietzsche considered him “The most gifted of the Americans” and ‘Walt Whitman’ referred to him as his “Master.”
Analysis Of The Essay “The American Scholar”
Emerson begins his lecture by stating that America’s training phase of Shaping its literary career has come to an end and it should not be further dependent on other literary traditions of Europe. A time has come to establish its literary base and be ‘Self Reliant’ thereof. He strongly believes that American life and experience should be celebrated in American poetry and literature.
In the essay, Emerson portrays the scholar as a person who learns from three main things. These things are – “By Nature”, “By Books (Past)”, and “By Action”.
He believes that nature is a source of spiritual and intellectual inspiration and that by studying nature, scholars can learn more about themselves and the world around them. Emerson argued that the American Scholar should be an independent thinker who is not bound by the traditions of the past. He writes,
“Our day demands the scholar. Man is born to believe and not to doubt, that our education is mainly an effort to expedite the process of believing by including a paralysis, and torpor of the faculties.”
Emerson considers nature “the first in time and the first in importance of the influence” in the early development of a scholar. The scholar, according to Emerson, is naturally drawn to nature as an object of study.
Emerson believed that “Man is related to all nature”. Therefore, understanding nature was the first step to understanding mankind as a whole and not just the individual Self. The “Unifying Instinct” drives the scholar to find commonalities on the surface of the earth, where they will discover “Roots running underground whereby contrary and remote things cohere and flowers out from one Stem.” Because nature mirrors society, it follows that there are also unseen “Roots” that bind individuals to one another despite differences in class, religion, race, sex, and culture. He writes,
“Nature is the opposite of the soul, answering to it part. One is a seal, and one is a print. Its beauty is the beauty of his mind. Its laws are the laws of his mind.”
Emerson believes that nature is a reflection of the human sad and that by studying nature, scholars can learn more about themselves.
When Emerson wrote this essay, America was still a new nation and largely unexplored and undeveloped. He hoped that a new generation of American scholars would turn to America’s landscape for inspiration to form new ideas and create a new style of art that would reflect the landscape’s untamed wilderness. Emerson believed that new ideas and art did not come from libraries or colleges, but “Out of unhandselled savage nature.” He also believed that the extent of a Scholar’s understanding of nature reflected the extent of a scholar’s understanding of nature reflected the extent of their understanding of their own mind. He writes,
“Nature has made everything at last, the remote spaces of the universe as well as grasses of the field, easy to the apprehension of my mind. The laws which govern the stars and the laws which govern the pismire are one. The plant has its law, and the man his law. But in the plant, the laws act without the consciousness of the point; in the man, it acts through his consciousness. This is the reason why the flower is beautiful to the bee, and the star is beautiful to the man.”
Emerson believes that nature can teach scholars about the fundamental laws of the universe and that this knowledge can help them to create new and innovative ideas.
Thus, Emerson’s essay “The American Scholar” is about the development of a new type of Scholar in America. His emphasis on the importance of nature in the development of the scholar is a unique and important contribution to the American tradition. By Studying nature, Emerson believes, scholars can develop all the tools they need to study humanity and create literature and art that can uplift and inspire people from all walks of life.