Emerson's Protégés


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Mentoring and Marketing Transcendentalism's Future

David Dowling

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In the late 1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, poet, lecturer, and leader of the Transcendentalist movement, publicly called for a radical nationwide vocational reinvention, and an idealistic group of collegians eagerly responded. Assuming the role of mentor, editor, and promoter, Emerson freely offered them his time, financial support, and anti-materialistic counsel, and profoundly shaped the careers of his young acolytes—including Henry David Thoreau, renowned journalist and women’s rights advocate Margaret Fuller, and lesser-known literary figures such as Samuel Ward and reckless romantic poets Jones Very, Ellery Channing, and Charles Newcomb.
Author David Dowling’s history of the professional and personal relationships between Emerson and his protégés—a remarkable collaboration that alternately proved fruitful and destructive, tension-filled and liberating—is a fascinating true story of altruism, ego, influence, pettiness, genius, and the bold attempt to reshape the literary market of the mid-nineteenth century.
David Dowling is assistant professor in the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and author of several books, most recently Literary Partnerships and the Marketplace: Writers and Mentors in Nineteenth-Century America. He lives in Iowa City.
“This superbly conceived, researched, and executed original study will assuredly make a major difference in the way scholars of transcendentalism read, understand, and appreciate Emerson’s relationship with each of the figures treated here.”—Ronald A. Bosco, General Editor, The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dowling has illuminated a significant but under-appreciated aspect of Emerson’s achievement—literary mentoring—an activity integral to his career, and crucial to our understanding of the Transcendentalist movement as a whole. Emerson’s remarkable series of mentorships, as Dowling convincingly shows, contributed significantly to his work as an author, and in a unique sense, to his role as a public figure.”—David M. Robinson, author of Emerson and the Conduct of Life
“All the chapters are gems—nuanced discussions of distinctive (sometimes eccentric) protégés of a man who once declared, ‘This is my boast that I have no school & no follower.’ Emerson emerges as a generous critic with a shrewd sense of publishing and marketing who also learned much from his literary apprentices.”—Wesley T. Mott, Professor of English, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
"This important work is the first to examine Emerson’s complex relationships with contemporaries as mutually interdependent ones, rather than those of a mentor dealing with often disappointing failures. Dowling is especially good on the peripheral figures in Emerson’s intellectual orbit, and his detailed discussions of their relations with Emerson and with each other. Instead of the “Concord Sage” talking down from Parnassus, Dowling presents a well-rounded picture of the financial, personal, and literary encouragement Emerson gave his friends, as well as the feelings they reciprocated to him."—Joel Myerson, Carolina Distinguished Professor of American Literature Emeritus, University of South Carolina

“[A]n impeccably written, well-researched, and immensely valuable study of Emerson's mentorship.”—Andrew McMurry, NBOL-19
ISBN: 9780300197440
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
8 b/w illus.
A Delicate Aggression

Savagery and Survival in the Iowa Writers' Workshop

David O. Dowling

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