Measures of intimacy: From skepticism to ethics in the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Clark, Prentiss B.
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Measures of Intimacy: From Skepticism to Ethics in the Writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson forwards an alternative to reading Emerson as a thinker of individualism, which has long been the predominate framework through which critics have received him and evaluated his contribution to United States letters and culture. In particular, drawing broadly from his canonical as well as neglected sermons, journals, lectures, and essays, this project delineates how Emerson's body of writing may be read as a study in intimacy: a thoroughgoing investigation of, and attempt to revitalize, our connections to our selves, fellow persons, nature, and beyond, even when at the distance of skepticism and human separateness. What Emerson's work brings home with especially clarity, this dissertation suggests, is how our deadness to the ordinary relations in which we exist can impoverish both civic life and human existence, and how rediscovering these relations might open a way toward realizing a juster world (even grow one's capacity to imagine what that might be). In effect, Measures of Intimacy demonstrates how the writer known most for "self-reliance" is equally, and perhaps necessarily, a student of the intimacies in which we begin to be, and in which the ethical question, "How shall I live?" begins living in us.