Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Literary criticism and analysis for Ralph Waldo Emerson. Introduction, biography, and scholarly literary criticism for Emerson. Literaryhistory.com is a not-for-profit guide to reliable online information on canonical English and American writers, with links to offsite, free and subscription-service reference materials. The articles and books below were written by authorities on Ralph Waldo Emerson, and originally published in academic textbooks, peer-reviewed scholarly journals, web sites of professional and scholarly societies, and respected academic presses. Nothing in this list was published in violation of copyright laws.

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Introduction & Biography

"Ralph Waldo Emerson." A short introduction to Emerson from a college textbook, the Heath Anthology of American Literature.

"Ralph Waldo Emerson." Biography of Emerson at the American Transcendentalism Web, ed. Ann Woodlief. Academic web site.

Bloom, Harold. "The Sage of Concord." Profile of Emerson by the towering American literary critic Harold Bloom. The Guardian 23 May 2003.

Richardson, Robert D. "Emerson: The Mind on Fire." Renowned Emerson biographer speaks on Emerson's life, feelings, and beliefs. Audio file at the Cambridge Forum 11 Dec. 1996.

"Ralph Waldo Emerson." An extended biographical account of Emerson, his times, the evolution of his ideas, and his work. Poetry Foundation.

"Ralph Waldo Emerson." A brief biography of Emerson, with links to some of his best known poems, from the Academy of American Poets.

"Still Ahead of His Time." Biography of Emerson at the Smithsonian Magazine May 2003.

"Ralph Waldo Emerson." Biographical introduction. Unitarian Universalist Association.

"Ralph Waldo Emerson." On Emerson's philosophical ideas, at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

"Ralph Waldo Emerson." Chronology, themes in his philosophy, bibliography, at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Rusk, Ralph L. The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1949). Older, but still important biography of Emerson, complete book free at the Internet Archive.

Literary Criticism

Adams, Richard P. "Emerson and the Organic Metaphor." PMLA 69, 1 (1954) pp 117-30 [free article, jstor].

Adkins, Nelson F. "Emerson and the Bardic Tradition." PMLA 63, 2 (1948) pp 662-77 [free article, jstor].

Anderson, Douglas. "Huckleberry Finn and Emerson's 'Concord Hymn.'" Nineteenth-Century Literature 40, 1 (1985) pp 43-60 [free article, jstor].

Arms, George. "Emerson's 'Ode Inscribed to W. H. Channing.'" College English 22, 6 (1961) pp 407-09 [free article, jstor].

Bradley, Sculley. "Lowell, Emerson, and the Pioneer." American Literature 19, 3 (1947) pp 231-44 [preview only, jstor].

Braswell, William. "Melville as a Critic of Emerson." American Literature 9, 3 (1937) pp 317-34 [preview only, jstor].

Buell, Lawrence. Emerson (Belknap P 2003) [complete book at sub ser, questia].

Cavanaugh, Cynthia A. "The Aeolian Harp: Beauty and Unity in the Poetry and Prose of Ralph Waldo Emerson." Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature 56, 1 (2002) pp 25-35.

Cavell, Stanley. "Thinking of Emerson." New Literary History 11, 1 (Autumn 1979) pp 167-76 [preview only, jstor].

Cayton, Mary Kupiec. Emerson's Emergence: Self and Society in the Transformation of New England, 1800-1845 (U of North Carolina P 1989) [complete book at sub ser, questia].

Cole, Phyllis. "Emerson Father and Son: A Precedent for 'the American Scholar.'" New England Quarterly 78, 1 (2005) pp 101-24 [preview only, jstor].

Ellison, Julie. "The Gender of Transparency: Masculinity and the Conduct of Life." American Literary History 4, 4 (1992) pp 584-606 [preview only, jstor].

Fromm, Harold. "Overcoming the Oversoul: Emerson’s Evolutionary Existentialism." The Hudson Review 57, 1 (Spring 2004).

Gilmore, Paul. "Mechanical Means: Emersonian Aesthetic Transcendence and Antebellum Technology." On Emerson's transcendental aesthetics and his attempt to imagine such an aesthetics as potentially transforming society. MLQ: Modern Language Quarterly 65, 2 (June 2004) pp 245-68 [extract, muse].

Meola, Frank M. "Emerson Between Faith and Doubt." Meola describes a period of drifting, from February, 1827, in Emerson's early life. New England Review 32, 3 (2011) pp 111-23 [extract, muse].

Miller, Perry. "Jonathan Edwards to Emerson." The New England Quarterly 13, 4 (1940) pp 589-617 [preview only, jstor].

Morris, Saundra. "The Threshold Poem, Emerson, and 'the Sphinx.'" American Literature 69, 3 (1997) pp 547-70 [preview only, jstor].

Morris, Saundra. "Poetic Portals: Emerson's Essay Epigraphs." Nineteenth-Century Prose 30, 1/2 (2003) pp 300-28 [sub ser, questia].

Noble, Mark. "Emerson's Atom and the Matter of Suffering." Nineteenth-Century Literature 64, 1 (June 2009) pp 16-47 [preview only, jstor].

Porte, Joel. "Emerson and the Refounding of America." Nineteenth-Century Prose 30, 1/2 (2003) pp 227-49 [sub ser, questia].

Robinson, David M. "Emerson: Religion After Transcendentalism." A talk at the Emerson Bicentennial 2003. Text and audio, Unitarian Universalist web site.

Robinson, David M. "Poetry, Personality, and the Divinity School Address." Harvard Theological Review 82, 2 (1989) pp 185-99 [preview only, jstor].

Robinson, David M. "Thoreau and Idealism: 'Face to Face to a Fact.'" Nineteenth-Century Prose 31, 2 (2004) pp 30-50 [sub ser, questia].

Robinson, David M. "Emerson, American Democracy, and 'Progress of Culture.'" Nineteenth-Century Prose 31, 1/2 (2003) pp 282-99 [sub ser, questia].

Robinson, David M. "Toward a Grammar of Moral Life," from Emerson and the Conduct of Life: Pragmatic and Ethical Purpose in the Later Work (1993) [sub ser, enotes, has 15 more scholarly articles on Emerson].

Rowe, John Carlos. At Emerson's Tomb: The Politics of Classic American Literature" (Columbia UP 1997) [complete book, sub ser, questia].

Thomas, Joseph M. "Late Emerson: Selected Poems and the 'Emerson Factory.'" On Emerson's preparation of his last volume of poetry, the 1876 Selected Poems. ELH 65, 4 (Winter 1998) pp 971-94 [extract, muse].

Ziser, Michael. "Emersonian Terrorism: John Brown, Islam, and Postsecular Violence." On Emerson's attitude towards political terrorism. American Literature 82 (June 2010) [abstract only].

Web Sites

"The Ralph Waldo Emerson Society." Includes a chronology for Emerson's life and extensive bibliographies for works by him and about him. Scholarly society, publishes Emerson Society Papers.

The Dial a magazine for literature, philosophy, and religion. Margaret Fuller; Ralph Waldo Emerson; George Ripley, eds. Vol. 1-4, 1840-1844. Page views of rpt. edition, free from HathiTrust Digital Library.

Making of America. A digital, searchable library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. U Michigan and Cornell U.

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