Emerson and Self-Culture

Emerson and Self-Culture

John T. Lysaker
Distribution: World
Publication date: 2/14/2008
Format: paper 248 pages
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-21971-8
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How do I live a good life, one that is deeply personal and sensitive to others? John T. Lysaker suggests that those who take this question seriously need to reexamine the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In philosophical reflections on topics such as genius, divinity, friendship, and reform, Lysaker explores "self-culture" or the attempt to remain true to one's deepest commitments. He argues that being true to ourselves requires recognition of our thoroughly dependent and relational nature. Lysaker guides readers from simple self-absorption toward a more fulfilling and responsive engagement with the world.

Author Bio

John T. Lysaker is Associate Professor and Head of the Philosophy Department at the University of Oregon. He is author of You Must Change Your Life: Poetry, Philosophy, and the Birth of Sense.


". . . this book is written in a profoundly Emersonian spirit, which means it is written in a spirit that refuses to back down from Emerson's provocations, nor does it proceed through attempts to domesticate his language. It represents a laudable attempt to think along with Emerson, and to recommend him as a companion with whom to think. . . . as a provocation to think along with him, it must be judged a success." —Corey McCall, Elmira College, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (on-line) , November 17, 2008

"Proponents of standards reform in America's schools would benefit from the understanding of Emersonian individualism offered by John T. Lysaker in this book." —William Proefriedt,
Teachers College Record

"A subtle, probing, and insightful reading of an author who appropriately becomes more powerful, less familiar, and more challenging than the figure whom so many of us have perhaps presumed an all too ready and settled familiarity." —Vincent Colapietro, Penn State University

"A detailed propagation of Emersonianism, lively and sometimes personal in its prose, satisfying in its open, un—ironic commitment to a great precursor, and praiseworthy in its address to a topic that extends far beyond academic matters." —Mark Bauerlein, Emory University

"At the end as at the beginning, then, there is much to learn from and to think about in this wide-ranging and important book." —Russell Goodman, University of New Mexico,
Journal of Speculative Philosophy , Vol. 22, No. 4, 2008

". . . complex, yet accessible to non-specialists.

In the final analysis, Lysaker himself achieves in
Emerson and Self-Culture and 'eloquence that can agitate.' Not only does he outline a series of nuanced approaches to self-culture in Emerson; like Emerson, he rhetorically provokes us towards greater possibilities for ourselves and our relations." —Michael Jonik, University at Albany, Emerson Society Papers , Vol. 20.1 Spring 2009

"[This] book is excellent for those who seek a deeper understanding of Emerson or readers interested in concepts of individuality and self-exploration. It is essential reading for philosophers interested in the renewed debate over Emerson’s philosophy." —Marcus B. Schulzke, SUNY Albany,
Foucault Studies , No. 7, September 2009

"It should be apparent . . . that this book is written in a profoundly Emersonian spirit, which means it is written in a spirit that refuses to back down from Emerson's provocations . . . . [and] as a provocation to think along with him, it must be judged a success." —Corey McCall, Elmira College, Nov. 17, 2008

". . . inspired and inspiring, insightful and insight-provoking. . . . a remarkable and thought-provoking book . . . . What sets the work apart from its predecessors is its directly engaging touch: defying institutional conventions and constitutional preoccupations, Lysaker writes about and deals with Emerson in a personally involving manner. These essays in 'eloquent life' are beautifully in line with Emerson’s view of culture as 'art of life'. The book is written in an eloquent and erudite style . . . . I am not sure whether Emersonian self-culture could be much more inspiringly advanced." —Heikki A. Kovalainen, University of Tampere,
TRANSACTIONS C S PEIRCE SOC , Volume 44 Number 3 Su 2008

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1. Taking Emerson Personally
2. The Genius of Nature
3. Reflecting Eloquence
4. Divining Becoming
5. On the Edges of Our Souls
6. Commended Strangers, Beautiful Enemies
7. Tending to Reform