Definition and strength of the American character Assignment Help Emerson (1849) states that “[o]ur day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close” (p. 53). He says to the Harvard graduates that each year they come together to “read one more chapter of this biography” (p. 53) to add to the definition and strength of the American character, to ensure its growth and good health.
How does Emerson’s address still speak to young scholars today? Think about the timelessness of Emerson’s message and, perhaps, how it may even apply to you and your own journey of intellectual growth.
Emerson (1849) essentially cuts us loose from our European intellectual roots, asserting intellectual independence. “In the right state, he is, Man thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking” (p. 54).
Emerson (1849) speaks about three important aspects of becoming an American scholar.
Nature: “The first in time and the first in importance of the influences of the mind is that of nature” (p. 55). He argues that “The scholar is he of all men whom this spectacle most engages. He must settle its value in his mind” (p. 55).
Books: “The next great influence into the spirit of the scholar, is, the mind of the Past,—in whatever form, whether of literature, of art, of institutions, that mind is inscribed (56). Emerson values books as “noble” (p. 56). However, Emerson cautions that if one relies too much (or only) on books, “Hence, instead of Man Thinking, we have the bookworm” (p. 57).
Action: “Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth” (p.60). Emerson cautions that “Inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind” (p. 60).
Emerson states that “I have now spoken of the education of the scholar by nature, by books, and by action. . . . They are such as become Man Thinking” (p. 63). He says that
In self-trust, all the virtues are comprehended. Free should the scholar be,—free and brave. Free even to the definition of freedom, ‘without any hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution.’ Brave; for fear is a thing, which a scholar by his very function puts behind him. (p. 65)
Naturally, Emerson goes into greater detail in each of his three important sections, so it is up to you to read closely and write about how The American Scholar can speak to us today in our modern society and culture. What does the new American scholar need in his (and her) arsenal, and how does that concern us today?
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