Aesthetics of Ralph Waldo Emerson the Materials and Methods of His Poetry

Author: Hudnut, Robert
Examines Emerson's aesthetic as a metaphysical poem about two things: the human act of creation, and the divine. In the transcendental frame of reference, an aesthetic becomes basically a religion and not a philosophy. This study constructs a deductive framework from Emerson's writings, which works from the ground upward toward the Emersonian ideas on art: the "Materials" of Art must be considered before the "Method" of Art, and from these is created a philosophical-theological mold. It particularly examines Emerson's indebtedness to Coleridge, and also mentions earlier influences on both of them, such as Kant, Fichte, Plotinus, Plato, et al.


"Robert Hudnut's careful and compelling study demonstrates that Emerson's aesthetic theory was of a piece with his thought as a whole . . . . ranges throughout Emerson's writings from the Journals and Nature to the Essays, First and Second Series, Representative Men, The Conduct of Life, Letters and Social Aims, Society and Solitude, The Natural History of the Intellect, and the poems. . . . traces the spirals of form which are the trajectories of Nature, Man, God, and Art. It is a tightly argued and gracefully written study." - James A. Sappenfield

"In the rich matrix of readings and analyses that Hudnut has constructed, Emerson's scattered comments on poetry assume, for the moment at least, systematic coherence. This is one of the real pleasures that this book affords. . . . this work has an appealing freshness and enthusiasm that more narrowly scholarly or professional considerations of such topics often lack." - John Michael