Young, Regina M.
About the author: Regina M. Young earned her BA in French at Florida International University, her MA from Florida State University, and a joint PhD in French and Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently teaching French language, literature and culture at The University of Missouri-Rolla.2003 0-7734-6668-1
This study demonstrates that there is a substantial philosophical congeniality between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Victor Hugo which has so far gone unnoticed. It shows many striking affinities, offering a fresh perspective on both authors. It examines how both Emerson’s and Hugo’s ideas and perceptions grew out of 19th-century Western ideology, as well as their personal psycho-physiological experiences of the world. In arguing for an understanding of Hugo as a Gallic Transcendentalist, this comparative study corrects one popular image of the French writer, that of a moody, eccentric megalomaniac and superficial trifler. Beginning with a lively cultural-studies analysis of both writers’ personal as well as socio-historical backgrounds, it examines specific, authentic 19th-century articles from French and American journals in order to shed light on what critics had to say about the foreign poet. There is also a collection and analysis of Emerson’s never-written ‘French Traits,’ Emerson’s perceptions of the French as a nation as expressed in his journal entries. The study then gives a detailed analysis of Emerson’s and Hugo’s main affinity: their Transcendentalist cosmogony.