By David Marr

Strains the enormous effect of Emerson on American literary and political notion

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I find Poirier's analysis compelling but incomplete. " But concealed within this seemingly airy notion is an entelechy whose terms are only fully elaborated in Emerson's other essays and elaborated again and again in American literature and thought since the mid-nineteenth century. " The "doctrine" set forth in an "old fable" Emerson admired held that originally there was One Man,present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; . . you must take the whole society to find the whole man.

It could help us envision and bring about a modus vivendi. The social saturation of great American works has been now mundane, now sublime. Consider Melville: if all our knowledge of whales and whaling were suddenly expunged in a bizarre disaster, the essential knowledge could be recovered and the whaling industry re- Page 26 established by a careful reading of Moby-Dick (1851). Or Hawthorne: more finely wrought than The House of the Seven Gables (1851) or The Blithedale Romance (1852), The Scarlet Letter (1850) not only stands as his most sustained effort to bury the past of his forefathers but also gives us many glimpses of the America of his own day.

For it is that infirmity which, according to Thoreau, sets up the vain project of attempting to unite word and thing in perfect organic wholeness. Recall that Thoreau had stopped short of concluding that because meanings carried by different names for the same thing are different meanings there can be no such organicism. The passage on "the infirmity of our natures," which I have called the answer to the problem set up by the polemic against the farmer, is likewise silent on this matter: it, too, does not say that because meanings carried by different names for the same thing differ there can be no such organicism.

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