Emerson and Thoreau

Emerson and Thoreau

Figures of Friendship
Edited by John T. Lysaker and William Rossi
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 01/04/2010
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-22143-8
Bookmark and Share
Buy from Amazon


This lively volume explores the theme of friendship in the lives and works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Written from diverse perspectives, the essays offer close readings of selected texts and draw on letters and journals to offer a comprehensive view of how Emerson’s and Thoreau’s friendships took root and bolstered their individual political, social, and ethical projects. This collection explores how Emerson and Thoreau, in their own ways, conceived of friendship as the creation of shared meaning in light of personal differences, tragedy and loss, and changing life circumstances. Emerson and Thoreau presents important reflections on the role of friendship in the lives of individuals and in global culture.

Author Bio

John T. Lysaker is Professor and Head of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. He is author of Emerson and Self-Culture (IUP, 2008).

William Rossi is Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in English at the University of Oregon. He is editor of Walden and Resistance to Civil Government and several volumes of Thoreau’s works, including Walden, Civil Disobedience, and Other Writings and Journal, volumes 3 and 6.


“Written from diverse perspectives, these essays offer close readings of selected texts and draw on letters and journals to offer a comprehensive view of how Emerson’s and Thoreau’s friendships took root and bolstered their individual political, social, and ethical projects.”

“Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalists had a lot more to say about friendship than is generally thought, and this is a good point of departure for these new readings.”
 — Robert F. Sayre, University of Iowa

“Addresses an issue—friendship—that is of crucial importance to the ethical and social visions of Emerson and Thoreau.”
 — James M. Albrecht, Pacific Lutheran University

“Emerson & Thoreau rises above the rest in that it sheds light not only on ideas but on the human interests that imbue them sometimes with beauty, occasionally with virtue, and too often with tragedy.V.6.2 Summer 2011”
 — The Pluralist

“[T]his splendid volume ... is a substantial contribution to our understanding of the friendship between Emerson and Thoreau, and of nineteenth century literary culture more generally.Vol. 22.1 Spring 2011”
 — Emerson Society Papers

“This thought-provoking collection offers valuable insights not only about Emerson and Thoreau but also about the ways in which their views of friendship resonate today. December 2010, Vol. 83, no. 4”
 — The New England Quarterly

“In their new book, John T. Lysaker and William Rossi have assembled a set of excellent scholarly essays that situate Emerson and Thoreau in the tradition of Western thinking about friendship stretching from Plato to Derrida.”
 — Times Literary Supplement

“Lysaker and Rossi believe that by studying Thoreau and Emerson's unique friendship and also their writing on the subject of friendship one can learn much about the mysterious and sometimes contradictory elements that tie all humans in friendship. . . . Close examination of their written essays, letters, and journals does in fact enrich understanding of what the two men experienced. . . . Recommended.”
 — Choice

“Emerson & Thoreau: Figures of Friendship... offers compelling biographical background on [Emerson and Thoreau’s] famous friendship, as well as insightful scholarship on their main writings about friendship: Emerson’s essay ‘Friendship,’ and the ‘Wednesday’ section of Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849).... The book’s aspiration is to be that rare hybrid: an academic work urgent enough to change a reader’s life.... In both Emerson and Thoreau’s thinking, friendship is indispensable in bringing about our better selves: our flourishing cannot occur without the challenges and opportunities for growth our friends provide us.#80 2010”
 — Scott Parker, Philosophy Now

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations for Emerson, Thoreau, and Carlyle Citations
Introduction / John T. Lysaker and William Rossi
Part 1. Transcendental Contexts
1. Transcendental Friendship: An Oxymoron? / Lawrence Buell
2. Forgiving the Giver: Emerson, Carlyle, Thoreau / Barbara Packer
Part 2. Emerson's "Friendship"
3. "In the Golden Hour of Friendship": Transcendentalism and Utopian Desire / David M. Robinson
4. Emerson and Skepticism: A Reading of "Friendship" / Russell B. Goodman
5. On the Faces of Emersonian "Friendship" / John T. Lysaker
Part 3. Thoreau's Divergent Melodies
6. "In Dreams Awake": Loss, Transcendental Friendship, and Elegy / William Rossi
7. "Let Him Be to Me a Spirit": Paradoxes of True Friendship in Emerson and Thoreau / Alan D. Hodder
Part 4. Giving Friendship for Life
8. Giving Friendship: The Perichoresis of an All-Embracing Service / James Crosswhite
9. Leaving and Bequeathing: Friendship, Moral Perfectionism, and the Gleam of Light / Naoko Saito
Works Cited
List of Contributors

Related Titles