Keywords

Signature of U.S. author Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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We are dealing with writers who take words very seriously. We are also working toward critical arguments and creative readings that we build around, motivate through, focus on the words we use, emphasize, reiterate, cite. So, I will be adding to this list of keywords throughout the semester based on our readings and discussions. You might think of this as your ‘vocabulary list’ for the course: terms you should be able to put to practice in discussion (at the very least, ask questions) and put to work in your writing–where, in effect, you will be tested on them. I might also quiz you on these keywords by asking you to apply them to another text from the author, or another author.

  • Analogy
    • Emerson, Nature: “These are not the dreams of a few poets, here and there, but man is an analogist, and studies relations in all objects.” [36]
    • Emerson, “American Scholar”: “science is nothing but the finding of analogy, identity, in the most remote parts” [58]
  • Correspondence
    • Nature: “Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind” [35]
    • A related (corresponding) term: correlative: “… that the mind is One, and that nature is its correlative ” [“History” 119]
  • Creative Reading:
    • Emerson, “American Scholar”: “There is then creative reading as well as creative writing.” [60]
  • Experiment (and related, Experience)
    • Emerson, “Circles”: “I am only an experimenter, with no past at my back.”
    • related term: essay (verb): to try, to test, to experience
  • Intelligence:
    • Emerson, “Self-Reliance”: “We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams.” [128]
  • Intuition:
    • Emerson, “Self-Reliance”: “We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions” [127]
  • Metonymy
    • A rhetorical figure of thought and speech representing an idea or an object by way of something associated with that idea/object, part of its context, a part of a larger whole, related to it through contiguity or proximity; as such, metonymy operates through the compression or condensation of meaning–taking out a larger meaning and condensing it into a part for effect or focus–much as memory fundamentally works through association. A primary poetic figure for Whitman; and for Emerson, an underlying principle of nature and of thinking. Emerson in “Poetry and Imagination”: “All thinking is analogizing & it is the use of life to learn metonymy.” A type of metonymy that we can relate to Dickinson (“I felt a funeral in my brain”) as well as back to Emerson: metalepsis.
  • Reason (vs. Understanding):
    • Emerson, Nature: “Every property of matter is a school for the understanding…Reason transfers all these lessons into its own world of thought, by perceiving the analogy that marries Matter and Mind.” [39]
  • Surprise:
    • Emerson, “Experience”: “Life is a series of surprises, and would not be wroth taking or keeping, if it were not…. In the thought of genius there is always a surprise.” [206-207]
    • Dickinson, 1129: “To bright for our infirm Delight/ The Truth’s superb surprise”
  • Transition:
    • Emerson, “Circles”: “Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime but it may be trivial tomorrow in the light of new thoughts. People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled, is there any hope for them.” [181]
    • “Self-Reliance”: “Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state…” [129]
  • You:
    • Whitman, everywhere, but for example” “Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand”; or the last word of “Song of Myself” (“I stop somewhere waiting for you”); or “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” where he directly addresses you (“I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence”). Relations: Rankine, Citizen

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