Where's Waldo Emerson?










BACK TO CLASS HOMEPAGE
  • WALDO IN THE SCARLET LETTER

  •   This assignment is meant to give you a chance to think about one aspect of the individual works we're reading in the context of the larger period we're studying all semester. The label we're using for that period is "The American Renaissance." All labels simplify and distort whatever they're supposed to name, but a more accurate one for much of the period between 1832 and 1855 might be "the age of Emerson," because of the way so many of the issues contemporary writers were preoccupied with were most resonantly articulated by Emerson's words.
      The assignment, then, is to bring to our discussions of Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman and Dickinson examples of how you can hear Emerson's voice in these other writers' works. I've assigned each of you to a specific work/specific due date according to these schedules:
  • THURSDAY DISCUSSION

  • FRIDAY DISCUSSION

  • When it's your turn, you'll come to that discussion session with two passages to share with the group, one from Emerson and the other from the work we're exploring that week. They should be short enough to read to the group in a couple minutes, and can even be just a couple well-chosen sentences. I'll post examples of what I'm looking for when we discuss The Scarlet Letter (see above).
      The best way to do the assignment is probably first to recollect what Emerson said, by looking back through the orations and essays we read -- and the following passages from a text we didn't read, his first book:
  • SELECTIONS FROM NATURE

  • Then as you read Walden or Moby-Dick and so on you can be listening for echoes of Emerson in the other text.
      By the way, the title of this assignment isn't just stupid: Emerson's friends called him Waldo, not Ralph.