All assignments are due in class unless otherwise indicated; the items listed under “Consider” are suggestions for your thinking and responding, but not required.

Emerson’s School: Introduction

M 8/31/15

  • Due: First Class. Read the short “Introduction” to Buell’s Emerson before the first class. Also, look through the syllabus and other course materials available on my Transcendentalism Course Blog:
  • Consider: Questions you have about the course, what you are doing here: What do you want to learn and work on as a scholar? What are your interests in Transcendentalism, in Emerson, in developing your craft as a reader and writer? For English majors, what ideas and skills related to a possible SCE project do you want to work on?

W 9/2

  • Due: Emerson, “The American Scholar”
  • Consider: Emerson’s perspective on learning and his definition of the scholar. How does his view (and his criticism of schools) compare to your experience? What is your sense of what he means by “creative reading”? Since we are also scholars, seeking to understand Emerson, what does his conception introduce for us–how should we read and think about Emerson? These questions are suggestions to spur some of your annotation and our discussion in class.
  • In case you don’t have the Norton edition of Emerson’s works, you can find a copy of “American Scholar” here at

F 9/4

  • Due: Buell, chapter 1: “The Making of a Public Intellectual”
  • Consider: Identify some key contexts and concepts (think keywords) that Buell introduces that we can focus on in studying Emerson, and can begin to connect to our initial discussion and reading this week. Think about ways we can forward (or apply) these insights into our discussion and your writing. What does “public intellectual” mean—and in what ways does Emerson represent this? How does Emerson’s experience as a  public lecturer in the Lyceum inform his writing?

Part One: Emersonian Philosophy


M 9/7

  • Due: Emerson, Nature: read closely, slowly, take note, re-read.
  • Consider: This essay is both philosophy and literature. Identify one or two key elements of its philosophy—ideas that it presents. Then identify one or two elements that make this essay also literary. Do the philosophical and literary features of the text conflict or correlate?

W 9/9

  • Due: Emerson, “The Method of Nature” (Group 1); “Compensation” (Group 2)
  • Consider: Further reading into how Emerson thinks of nature as a system, as relation.

F 9/11

  • Due: Emerson, “Circles” + Blog
  • Consider: Your blog post should respond to the reading from this week: primarily Nature, but also making effective connections to the further reading from Wednesday and Friday. This is where we practice the rhetorical elements of coming to terms with Emerson and forwarding and countering other perspectives that we will develop in the writing projects. At this point, what’s your grasp of Emerson’s ‘theory of nature”? What’s the philosophy that emerges from his interest in nature? Where might you go with this in your first writing project–what would you emphasize, connect to, and challenge, as a way of reading Emerson’s philosophy creatively?



M 9/14

  • Due: Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
  • Consider: What’s you initial sense of what “genius” means in Emerson? This essay is conventionally viewed/criticized as a founding document of egocentricity in American culture—the self at the center of the world. How do you read it?

W 9/16

  • Due: Emerson, “History” (Group 1) ; “Quotation and Originality” (Group 2)
  • Consider: How does this text relate to “Self-Reliance”—how does it continue or complicate or even counter the idea of self-reliance for which Emerson is known?

F 9/18

  • Due: Buell, chapter 2: “Emersonian Self-Reliance in Theory and Practice” + Blog (posted by 5 pm)
  • Consider: once again in your blog post, respond to: “Self-Reliance” while also making effective connections to the reading from Wednesday and the critical perspective assigned for Friday.



M 9/21

  • Due: Emerson, “Experience”
  • Consider:

W 9/23

  • Due: Emerson, “Threnody” + begin Dillard, Holy the Firm
  • Consider:

F 9/25

  • Due: Dillard, finish Holy the Firm + Blog
  • Consider: As a way to respond to the reading this week (both “Experience” and Dillard’s text) and begin thinking toward the writing project, consider this question: What’s Emersonian in Dillard’s way of thinking and writing? Are there relations between her essay and Emerson’s that you would like to explore further—what are they and why?


Project 1: Philosophical Relations

M 9/28

  • Due: William James, “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” (originally a lecture to students published in 1899)
  • Consider: Relations between Emerson’s philosophy and James’s thought. What do you recognize as “Emersonian” in James?
    • Optional: As you re-read and draft this week, take a look this week at Buell’s chapter on Emerson as philosopher.

W 9/30

  • Due: Initial drafting Writing Project 1 due (posted to Canvas; peer response due in Canvas by Thursday afternoon)
  • Consider:

F 10/2

  • Due: Writing Project 1: Philosophical Relations due by Saturday at noon (submitted to Canvas).
  • Consider: No class meeting today.


Part Two: Emersonian Poetics

The Poet

M 10/5

  • Due: Emerson, “The Poet”
  • Consider: What’s the initial view of Emersonian poetics we get from the essay? Are there relations we can make, or that Emerson makes, between poetry and other elements of his thinking we have encountered? This essay is somewhat paired with “Experience”: does that make sense?

W 10/7

  • Due: “Ecstasy of Influence” (New Yorker essay on Emerson’s poetry) plus Reading Circles:
    • Group 1: Selected Poetry pages 429-455
    • Group 2: Selected Poetry pages 455-483
  • Consider: Select one poem to reread and prepare to share your thoughts with the class. What makes this poem seem “Emersonian”? How does this poetry compare/contrast with the poetics we have encountered in his prose?

F 10/9

  • Due: Buell, chapter 3, “Emersonian Poetics” +Blog (response to reading from the week)
  • Consider:



M 10/12

W 10/14

F 10/16

  • Due:  Fall Break/no class
  • Consider:


Whitman and Dickinson

M 10/19

Due: Read Emerson’s Letter to Whitman and Whitman’s letter to Emerson at the end of the 1856 edition (Correspondence section) + “Burial Poem” (the last poem of the 1856 edition)

  • Consider: What aspects of Whitman’s poetics, as described in his letter to Emerson, do we find in his poetry? Connect to “Burial Poem” and others we have read. How does this poetics compare/contrast with Emerson’s poetics?

W 10/21

  • Due: Emily Dickinson, Fascicle 16. Read all 11 poems of the fascicle.
  • Consider: How does Dickinson compare to Whitman? In what ways is Dickinson informed by Emerson’s  poetics and/or diverge from it? How does this poetry compare to Whitman’s?

F 10/23


Project 2: Poetic Relations

M 10/26

W 10/28

  • Due: Project 2: Initial Drafting. Posted to Canvas. Peer response due by Thursday.
  • Consider:

F 10/30

  • Due: Writing Project #2 due: Poetic Relations.Submitted to Canvas by Saturday noon
    • In class: be prepared to edit your draft and to read aloud one of the poems you are discussing.
  • Consider:


Part Three: Emersonian Rhetoric

Antislavery and Reform Writings

M 11/2

  • Due: Emerson, “Emancipation in the British West Indies”
  • Consider:

W 11/4

  • Due: Emerson, “The Transcendentalist” (Group 1); “New England Reformers” (Group 2)
  • Consider:

F 11/6

  • Due: Buell, chapter 6: “Social Thought and Reform” + Blog
  • Consider:



M 11/9

Due: Emerson, “Fate”


W 11/11

  • Due: Advising Day [No Class]
  • Consider:

F 11/13

Due: Du Bois, chapter 1 of The Souls of Black Folk; Ellison, “Hidden Name and Complex Fate” (pdf) + “Prologue” to Invisible Man (linked) + Blog

  • Consider:


Art and Criticism

M 11/16

W 11/18

F 11/20

  • Due: Rankine, Citizen + Blog
  • Consider: In what ways might we relate Rankine’s work to Emersonian poetics and rhetoric, his vision of art and criticism?


Education/Final Project  Composting

M 11/23

W 11/25

  • Due: [Thanksgiving Break]

F 11/27

  • Due: [Thanksgiving Break]


Final Project: Proposal, Bibliography

M 11/30

  • Due: Buell, “Emerson as Anti-Mentor” (final chapter)+ Final Project: Initial Proposal (posted to your blog). Read and briefly respond (with comment by class time Wednesday) to the proposals from the scholars in your group.

W 12/2

  • Due: Final Project:Work on Project + Conferences–meet in the Library (first floor) at beginning of class time.
  • Watch this TED talk on Metaphor. Emerson makes an appearance. Think about TED as a forum where Emerson’s influence lives on and/or is forgotten. With your final project presentation in mind, what can we learn from TED?

F 12/4

  • Due: Final Project: Annotated Bibliography, Revised Proposal Abstract [Posted to your blog]. Read and briefly respond (with comment by class time Monday) to the updated proposals and bibliographies from the scholars in your group.
    • The groups are:
      Group 1: Rachel, Adam, Jacob
      Group 2: Gray, Kyle, Erin, Lilly
  • Consider: We will not be meeting during class time. See you again on Monday at the Lit House.


Final Project: Drafting, Conferences

M 12/7

  • Due: Continue work on final project–continue research and begin drafting. Bring project materials to class: any work in progress, research, initial drafting.
  • + read this prize-winning undergraduate essay on Emerson’s “Experience”

W 12/9

  • Due: Final Project: Initial Drafting (Submit to Canvas at least 3 pages). Peer response due by class Friday. Conferences with me in my office, scheduled at these times. Come prepared to discuss work in progress, look at your initial draft.
    • 10.25: Rachel
    • 10.35: Jake
    • 10.45: Gray
    • 10.55: Kyle
    • 11.05: Lilly
    • 11.15: Erin
    • 11.25: Royce

F 12/11

  • Continue work on final project/peer response due.  Meet at Lit House for final class

Final Project: Presentations (Lit House). Wednesday 12/16, 9.30-11

Final Project: Publication due date. Thursday 12/17, submit to Canvas by 9 am



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