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Selected Essays (Penguin Classics)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  239 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that an appreciation of its vast natural resources would become the foundation of American culture. His assertion that human thought and actions proceed from nature, was a radical departure from the traditional European emphasis on domesticating nature to suit human needs. His philosophy is rich in common natural scenes of daily life, and expre ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 29th 1982 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1949)
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Julie
Jul 20, 2008 Julie added it
Shelves: lit-19th-am
Reading Emerson with my Unitarian book group is interesting. For them, he's not just an entry in the American literary canon; he might just hold the answers to some of life's questions. It's an unusual approach for me, but refreshing. Reminds me of my freshman year of college, when I read Plato and Dante and Machiavelli not to analyze and criticize, but for their potential truth value.

In the end, though, I remain deeply suspicious of the early Emerson, and particularly his belief in a universal
...more
Robert
Ok, here's the deal because I know I am in the minority. This is just a really tough book to understand. I tried really hard to follow it, but found myself getting lost often. Emerson is a great writer, and when I was in highschool I did read some of his selections, but reading over 300 pages was pretty greulling. There were some quotes that I really liked and connected with, but overall its not something that I enjoyed.

One other negative was that the book I read was supposed to have interpretat
...more
John Wiswell
Aug 17, 2007 John Wiswell rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Philosophy readers, artists, classic readers, Americana readers
Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of the fathers of the American spirit, not crafting its bill of rights or structure of government, but in defining individuality, pragmatism and spirituality for a new country built on people escaping the old. The seminal essay, "On Self-Reliance," is worth the price of this book alone, as it echoes everything our mothers told us as kids - but the rub is, this is where they got it. It is not the hardest-edged philosophy, Hell, anyone can read this and make sense of it ...more
Erica
Emerson's more popular essays are rather astounding. I think he is one of those writers whose popular work really is his goodwork--the less popular stuff comes off as didactic and repetitive. My favorites: "John Brown," "Self-Relaince," "American Scholar," and "The Poet." "The Poet" in particular is interesting in how Emerson equates the figure of the poet to "beauty" and "naming" and also speaks of the poet as having "godlike" qualities. But, Emerson quotes his own poetry three times in this es ...more
Scott
One of the great tragedies of my grad school experience was that I read so many excellent books so quickly that I can't remember much of them except that they were good. Someone with my handwriting has written thoughtful comments all over the margins of this book, but I couldn't tell you the first thing about Emerson except perhaps that beauty and nature are good, and one should be true to oneself. Did I get that right, Mr. Emerson?
Shelli
Mr. Emerson is one of my favorite authors, and has been since the early 1980s. His style is direct and enlightening, and you'll get a great view of religion in New England in the early 1800s.
Abby
Beautiful, essential American prose. Emerson holds such strong opinions about everything, and he was probably a real pain in person, but he sure can write a compelling essay.
Armando
I am always referring back to these wonderful essays time and time again. Self Reliance is still one of my favorites!
Ima.lotus
A book which makes you need a cup of coffee and a second reading.
Laura
Good stuff.
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in 1803, Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston. Educated at Harvard and the Cambridge Divinity School, he became a Unitarian minister in 1826 at the Second Church Unitarian. The congregation, with Christian overtones, issued communion, something Emerson refused to do. "Really, it is beyond my comprehension," Emerson once said, when asked by a seminary professor whether he believed in God. (Quoted ...more
More about Ralph Waldo Emerson...
Self-Reliance and Other Essays Essays and Poems Self-Reliance The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays and Lectures

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“Let us be poised, and wise, and our own, today. Let us treat men and women well; treat them as if they were real; perhaps they are.” 19 likes
“Thus inevitably does the universe wear our color, and every object fall successively into the subject itself. The subject exists, the subject enlarges; all things sooner or later fall into place. As I am, so I see; use what language we will, we can never say anything but what we are.” 7 likes
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