Given the exemplary studies of Thomas Carlyle’s influence on the Boston intelligentsia of the 1830s and 1840s, for instance by Robert D. Richardson and Barbara L. Packer, we may wonder if there are other questions to ask on the subject—and then, not so much as a point of disagreement or divergence, but rather in a spirit of seeking what may come to light given that so many elemental aspects have been so well digested by others. Avoiding a rehearsal of expert observations, much less a rote re-treading of key insights, I wish to focalize the present investigation by asking how, in particular, a single book—Sartor Resartus
—affected Emerson’s conception of what might be possible for him to think about literary, religious, and philosophical expression in terms of humor, satire, genre, and translation (specifically cultural translation); thus, I am asking about the interaction between form and content, and specifically how the form and content of Sartor Resartus
makes itself known and available to Emerson. Borrowing from George Eliot, the foregoing notes resolve themselves into the query that guides the present investigation: how was reading Sartor Resartus
an “epoch in the history of” Emerson’s mind?
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