Emerson's English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor

Using English Traits as his point of departure, LaRocca explores the presence and significance of metaphors in Emerson. In doing so, he shows their centrality to Emerson's thinking, but also reminds us of their centrality to all thinking. For example, purity metaphors abounded in nineteenth-century discourse in science, literature, and philosophy. Emerson picks up on this phenomenon, both to examine and undermine it. Why, for instance, would a faith in purity be philosophically dangerous? Purity is merely one of a host of metaphors that reveal problematical implications. Others include: blood, race, family, nation, genealogy, anatomy, and melancholy. By throwing light on Emerson's scrutiny of the great metaphors of his age, LaRocca lays bare the allusive and anecdotal aspects of Emerson's prose-the way it makes possible thinking on certain topics, and renews thinking of other issues. Metaphors are ubiquitous and yet-or, for that very reason-go largely unseen. We are all susceptible to blindness for metaphors. This book serves as a set of "reminders" of certain features of the natural history of our language.


David LaRocca studied philosophy, film, rhetoric, and religion at SUNY-Buffalo, UC Berkeley, Vanderbilt University, and at Harvard University, where he was Sinclair Kennedy Traveling Fellow in the United Kingdom. He is is the author of On Emerson (Wadsworth, 2003) and editor of Stanley Cavell's book Emerson's Transcendental Etudes (Stanford University Press, 2003), he writes regularly on topics in aesthetics, literary theory, and film. His essays have been published in volumes such as Nietzsche e L'America (Recensioni Filosofiche, Pisa 2005), New Morning: Emerson in the Twenty-first Century (SUNY Press 2008), Emerson for the Twenty-First Century (University of Delaware Press, 2010).

This immensely learned, deeply thoughtful and far-ranging book helps re-situate Emerson in his own time, and in ours. More than just a work of scholarship, it rises to the level of philosophical investigation. It is also witty, playful and, in its own strange way, original. -- Phillip Lopate, editor of Writing New York and The Art of the Personal Essay David LaRocca treats Emerson's English Traits with the philosophical seriousness and sophistication the book has long deserved, but never before so richly received. In elegant numbered paragraphs of subtle, self-reflexive philosophical prose, LaRocca refracts a selection of the book's principal metaphors through a remarkably wide array of related texts ranging from Seneca to Augustine to Darwin, Nietzsche, and, especially, Wittgenstein. The result is not a conventional academic study, but rather a many-faceted Emersonian reflection by quotation on such topics as evolution, originality, liberalism, American identity, self-renaming, and the fecund nature of metaphor itself. This is a valuable contribution to the re-assessment of Emerson's most neglected work, and a distinctive example of creative hermeneutical engagement. -- Neal Dolan, Assistant Professor of English, University of Toronto, Canada In this elegantly written, scrupulously researched book, David La Rocca has convincingly demonstrated that, rather than locating a restricted area of inquiry, Natural History constitutes the grounding precondition for Emersonian thinking. Emerson's English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor will surely prove an indispensable reference for undergraduates and graduates alike. -- Donald E. Pease, Professor of English and The Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, Dartmouth College, USA In this wonderful book, David LaRocca illuminates Emerson's mind by, in effect, pursuing his methods. LaRocca's treatment of English Traits is no mere academic summary. Rather, his object is to conduct his own natural history of metaphor, with a view to illuminating the role of metaphor, both for Emerson and more generally, in welding disjointed 'naturalistic' observations into coherent and intelligible wholes. With a vast range of reference, running from Wittgenstein to Darwin and from Coleridge to Montaigne, and an engagingly 'album'-like structure, the book traces Emersonian connections between topics as remote as the origins of evolutionary theory, the making of commonplace books and the rise of the American anti-slavery movement. It offers a glitteringly many-sided examination of the evolution of Emerson's deeply creative mind in its efforts to arrive at an understanding, not only of England, but also of the nascent American culture that it was in process of helping to form. -- Bernard Harrison, Emeritus E. E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah, USA, and Emeritus Professor of the Humanities, University of Sussex, UK In this finely crafted and highly original piece of scholarship, LaRocca not only draws attention to one of the most neglected texts in Emerson's oeuvre, he also presents an extended and insightful meditation on the nature of metaphor and the formation of cultural identity. Like a true florilegium, the collection of remarks continuously surprises - but not with gimmicks, rather with the kind of uncanny observations the method of criticism and arrangement is meant to illuminate. Combining literary sensibility with philosophical acumen, Emerson's English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor also prompts urgent and serious reflection on the relation between literature, philosophy and natural science more generally. Its publication is, therefore, as timely as Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations, and should be greeted with just as much applause. -- Mario von der Ruhr, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Swansea University, Wales, and Associate Editor of the journal Philosophical Investigations
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Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 395
Erscheinungsdatum 14.11.2013
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-1-4411-6140-6
Verlag Bloomsbury Academic
Maße (L/B/H) 229/154/30 mm
Gewicht 620
Buch (Taschenbuch, Englisch)
Fr. 45.40
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