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Emerson’s Essays: Cultural and Philosophical themes

May 8 - June 19
Sundays, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (six sessions)


Ralph Waldo Emerson, the man with “the mind on fire,” wrote some of the most important and greatest essays in American literature prior to the later twentieth century. Emerson’s thought combined some of the most important trends in religion, culture, and philosophy from the start of modernity with the intense intellectual and moral culture of his unique circle of friends in Concord, Massachusetts, with whom he shared experimentation in life and belief.

We will pursue four major themes through the Essays: his philosophical vision of reality, his critique of Christianity and his interests in Eastern religion, his moral and political philosophy, and his ideas on education. These themes will run through each session. In addition, we will look closely at Emerson’s marvelous prose style and the rhetorical force of his mode of essayism.


Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays & Lectures (edited by Joel Porte, Library of America edition) Available at Library of America, Powell’s, and elsewhere.

To Read Before First Meeting:

The first assignment will be his essays “Circles” pp. 383-400 and  “Address to the Graduates of the Divinity College,” pp. 71-92.from the LoA volume (Essays First Series)

Access Program
We want our writing classes and Delves to be accessible to everyone, regardless of income and background. We understand that our tuition structure can present obstacles for some people. Our Access Program offers writing class and Delve tuitions at a reduced rate. The access program covers 60% of the class tuition. Most classes and seminars have at least one access spot available.

Please apply here for access rate tuition. Contact Susan Moore at susan@literary-arts.org if you have questions.


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Bennett Gilbert

Bennett Gilbert teaches history and philosophy at Portland State University. He is the author of A Personalist Philosophy of History.
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