Transcendentalist Hermeneutics: Institutional Authority and the Higher Criticism of the Bible

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Duke University Press, 1991 - 194 pages
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American literary historians have viewed Ralph Waldo Emerson’s resignation from the Unitarian ministry in 1832 in favor of a literary career as emblematic of a main current in American literature. That current is directed toward the possession of a self that is independent and fundamentally opposed to the “accoutrements of society and civilization” and expresses a Transcendentalist antipathy toward all institutionalized forms of religious observance.
In the ongoing revision of American literary history, this traditional reading of the supposed anti-institutionalism of the Transcendentalists has been duly detailed and continually supported. Richard A. Grusin challenges both traditional and revisionist interpretations with detailed contextual studies of the hermeneutics of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Theodore Parker. Informed by the past two decades of critical theory, Grusin examines the influence of the higher criticism of the Bible—which focuses on authorship, date, place of origin, circumstances of composition, and the historical credibility of biblical writings—on these writers. The author argues that the Transcendentalist appeal to the authority of the “self” is not an appeal to a source of authority independent of institutions, but to an authority fundamentally innate.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Emersons Resignation from the Ministry The True Doctrine Respecting Forms
9
Hoc Est Corpus Meum
14
To Make Those Who Partake of It Better
18
How It Figures in the Ledger
24
An Amulet against Delusions
28
By Hatred of Excess
33
The Sublime Attractions of the Grave
35
Thoreaus Mythological Interpretation Seeing through The Mist of Prejudice
81
History Poetry Mythology
84
A la mode Strauss
93
The Mist of Prejudice
102
A Natural Sabbath
108
The Two Theodore Parkers Interpretation Intuition and Maternal Authority
115
The Great Spiritual Trial of My Life
118
What God Pronounces True
124

The Scheme of Necessity
39
We Worship in the Dead Forms of Our Forefathers
44
The Moral Presence of Christ
46
The Divinity School Address Controversy There Is No Dead Letter but a Perpetual Scripture
55
The Unitarian Conscience and the Regula Fidei
61
The Teacher of the Coming Age
72
The Dear Heavenly Mother
130
The Oldest Institution of the World
140
Notes
151
Works Cited
179
Index
187

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