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An Atlantic Adam: Emerson and the origins of United States literature

Greenham, David


David Greenham
School Director (Research & Enterprise) / Professor


Leslie Eckel

Clare Elliott


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.

Publication Date Oct 19, 2016
Deposit Date Jan 11, 2017
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 253-265
Series Title Edinburgh Companions to Literature
Book Title The Edinburgh Companion to Atlantic Literary Studies
Chapter Number 17
ISBN 9781474402941
Keywords Emerson, originality, American literature, American renaissance
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Contract Date Jan 11, 2017