Ralph Waldo Emerson was not only one of the first prominent public intellectuals in American history, he was also one of America’s first international literary celebrities. Not surprisingly, his presence and his ideas were widespread in his own lifetime—prompting some critics to note that he was simply the most well-known American writer in the world. Likewise, Emerson was part of a generation that began reading widely not just across time but across global geography, and so we find provincial New Englanders like Emerson (and Fuller and Thoreau) reading and quoting from Cervantes, Hafiz, Saadi, Goethe, and Confucius with the same confidence that they quote from Plato and Montaigne. As Emerson was reading from global culture, so he was affecting global culture. Turning to that second aspect, we are soliciting abstracts for new essays that will address the legacy of Emerson’s international influence from his time up to the present day.
In biographies, literary criticism, history, and philosophical inquiries, many aspects of Emerson’s global influence have been noted: from the intimacy of Nietzsche’s twenty-five years of reading to Carlyle’s distant and often splenetic admiration of his work. To many of these influences Emerson has “replied” by anticipating the Transcendentalist vision of later writers throughout the world. Many scholars and writers in Germany and England—as well as in France, Italy, Spain, and also in Asia and Latin America—have read his work with interest, and been deeply affected by it. From these interventions as readers and critics, the question rises anew how Emerson’s global impact continues to evolve.
The present collection is an effort to gather the innovative critical reflections on this topic by contemporary scholars working in a diverse range of fields in the humanities. We welcome abstracts between 400 and 600 words that take up some aspect of Emerson’s influence on global culture from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century for a finished essay of about 6,000 words. We are particularly keen to receive proposals for work that addresses Emerson’s influence in Africa and Eastern Europe. Please also include a brief biography between 200 and 300 words, and submit both the abstract and bio by email to co-editors Ricardo Miguel Alfonso and David LaRocca by March 1, 2012.
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