Emerson has long been held to be the well-spring of American literary originality. In this chapter I outline Emerson's own ideas of originality, detailing in particular how they relate to his New England context and his reading of model English Renaissance writers. I also locate the idea of Emerson's originality in the Emerson criticism of the last hundred years. Finally I argue that Emerson's status as the originator of US literature, while hard to empirically substantiate, retains its operative (albeit mythic) power because of the ways in which Emerson's rhetoric of origins transformed the possibilities for US writers and they ways in which they cold be critically received.
Greenham, D. (2016). An Atlantic Adam: Emerson and the origins of United States literature. In C. Elliott, & L. Eckel (Eds.), The Edinburgh Companion to Atlantic Literary Studies (253-265). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press