The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Idealistic Studies 22 (3):263-264 (1992)
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The release of a reader’s edition of the critical text of Essays, First Series and Essays, Second Series, in which readers can trace Emerson’s growing awareness that his true interest is in the constitution of consciousness rather than in ontological questions, is a welcomed fulfillment of the promise of the textual “industry” of the last twenty-five years. The textual accuracy of the Harvard texts is documented in the fuller Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, where one can reconstruct copy-texts. While even a serious student would find an accurate text without textual apparatus sufficient for all by the last stages of serious reading and thinking, the omission of the informational annotations of the Collecte Works edition could raise problems of interpretation, since Emerson’s particular sources often determine the direction toward which his striking word-plays point. The listing of parallel journal passages in the Collected Works is an even more important tool, which opens to the student of Emerson the extensive source-studies which went into the ongoing Lectures series and the now-completed Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks series.



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