Emerson: double consciousness

October 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

At the end of “Fate,” Emerson–for all his resistance to providing final answers, resolutions, the solving of the problem–does in fact offer a “solution.” Five paragraphs from the end, Emerson introduces the image/phrase “double consciousness” as “one solution to the mysteries of human condition, one solution to the old knots of fate, freedom, and foreknowledge.”

This solution–in succeeding paragraphs called “Beautiful Necessity”–makes me think of Dillard’s ‘holy the firm,’ a double vision of something material and even brutal in touch with the absolute. Her version, in other words, of Emerson’s compensation.

Emerson’s image of a man riding alternately on the horses of public and private evokes an image from Plato–as well as a famous essay by the Emersonian poet Wallace Stevens, “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,” who cites the Plato figure. Stevens reflects there on the role of the poet in society-particularly in the midst of violence and war. He doesn’t cite Emerson in that essay–but it seems to me that Stevens is informed by Emerson’s notion of poetry and imagination, of a poet who is among the people; who is representative for his heightened double consciousness.


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