Chapter

Thoreau: Writing, Mourning, Neighbouring

Stephen Mulhall

in Stanley Cavell

Published in print January 1999 | ISBN: 9780198238508
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679643 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198238508.003.0013
Thoreau: Writing, Mourning, Neighbouring

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Cavell's most recent and detailed treatment of the issue of how the individual understands her relationship with others appears in the form of his readings of the work of Thoreau and Emerson, and his understanding of this tradition of American Romanticism — a tradition he wishes to reclaim for and as a philosophy in America — makes its spiritual thrust immediately political in its consequences. This chapter focuses on Thoreau, whom Cavell sees as prophetically diagnosing a state of sceptical despair in his fellow Americans; he claims that the majority lead lives of quiet desperation, ones which mock their own potential and constitute a parody of the promise of renewal upon which their nation was founded.

Keywords: Cavell; Thoreau; scepticism; American Romanticism

Chapter.  6074 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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