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By David Marr

Lines the enormous impact of Emerson on American literary and political suggestion

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O. Matthiessen's aesthetically oriented The American Renaissance (1941). Just as Brooks stressed the external details of social and cultural life and ignored the inner workings of American literary masterpieces, so Matthiessen reversed this priority. Ziff offers a synthesis of these two approaches. " Ziff is interested in "the process by which the details of the worldespecially its cultural anxietiesworked their way into the form and texture of literature" (Ziff 1981, xii). I share this interest, but I begin from different premises.

As the philosophical program for the activities of the new subject, humanism dignifies the pictorialization of the world and guides the self-pictorialization of the individual. Eventually, it sanctions the masterless man as a weird historical projectthe mythical yet real individualand culminates in Modernism, its final efflorescence. Modernism in turn surrealizes and pluralizes without humanizing, as Newman has observed (Newman 1985, 60). The social monsters to which Emerson alludes in "The American Scholar" may appear quaint in the gothic penumbra enveloping them, but they are not friendly.

They tumble out of the human imagination continually and always in the guises of new names. " At the same timeand this is the specific function of one such squadron of meaningsthey conceal the very distinction between meaning and naming. ). " It does nothing of the sort. Thoreau supposes a case here, the case called "trivial onomatopoeia," and puts himself into it. " And it is from this true position that he formulates his critique of the origins of property. The origins of property, however, are obviously not the whole of property; Thoreau's moral eloquence and linguistic insights tell us a bit about ownership but little else about property relationships.

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