The Way of Life by Abandonment: Emerson's Impersonal

Sharon Cameron

in Impersonality

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780226091310
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226091334 | DOI:
The Way of Life by Abandonment: Emerson's Impersonal

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When Ralph Waldo Emerson in “The Over-soul” writes “We do not yet possess ourselves,” he means that we live out of synch with the truth of impersonality. This chapter examines formulations which elaborate the mechanics of impersonality, in order to specify how persons come in contact with the impersonal. It focuses on Emerson's analysis of the way in which body and mind, counterintuitively, exemplify attributes of impersonality, as well as the way in which that “law,” outside of body and mind, is equally said to epitomize it. The chapter also considers the features of the person who is expounding impersonality. It argues that there is a connection between the anonymous voice of the speaker, the essay's stylistic singularity, and the compensating features of the erasure of personality. Although public power appears to require an indifference to persons, specifically to the distinction among persons, and especially to the particular status of the person who is writing, the chapter claims that it does so at the peril of calling its own authority into question.

Keywords: Ralph Waldo Emerson; impersonality; body; mind; personality; public power; authority

Chapter.  12869 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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