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- The American Scholar
- The American Scholar Summary by Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Duke had no India experts at the time. Ramanujan, the polymath linguist. What Duke lacked in scholarship it made up for in libraries. It had acquired thousands of Indian books and journals with rupees from American wheat sales. Writing lucidly yet elegantly, Gadbois criticised Nehru and his colleagues for believing that citizens who asserted their fundamental rights impeded governance and economic progress. He presciently warned that civil liberties in India would be jeopardised if the courts did not vigorously defend them. Jinnah enthusiastically supported Gour, but Motilal Nehru bitterly opposed them.
A decade and a half later, the Federal Court was established. After India, Gadbois spent a year teaching in Honolulu. Peace Corps and directed its Lexington operations. He soon returned to full-time teaching and research. In it, Gadbois offered a generic profile of a prototype India judge. He was typically a man in his late fifties. He was most commonly a Hindu from a prestigious family. He had been educated either in England or India and had little involvement with the national movement.
In the essay and in subsequent work, Gadbois also focused on the process by which Indian judges are selected. For it not only influenced subsequent research on this important topic it also emphasised the need for transparency and accountability in the appointment process. In , Gadbois returned to Delhi on a Fulbright fellowship. He arrived as the Court had begun delivering a series of landmark decisions on the right to property. These decisions revealed serious ideological differences among the judges.
There were at least one or more dissenting opinions in every case. The EPW piece was widely read. But Gadbois was disappointed that the Indian bar took no notice. Undeterred, he began an ambitious study of Indian litigation patterns. Assembling large datasets, Gadbois sought to identify the winners and losers before courts. He reported that the government was often the biggest loser. It consistently lost forty-percent of its cases. On a trip to Dhaka in , Gadbois was enraged by the brutality he encountered.
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Unimpressed by this activism, the Indian government denied him a visa. Gadbois was shocked and surprised by the decision. He went reluctantly instead to Papua New Guinea where he spent a year studying the legislature. Gadbois eventually came back to Delhi in Cold case statistics no longer interested him. He wanted to understand the lives of judges and how they got to the bench. Unlike his earlier work, this new project required extensive interviews. But Gadbois began work by first reaching for his golf clubs. At the Delhi Golf Club, he met his life-long friend S.
The former chief justice helped immeasurably with introductions and references. Hegde, and V. Krishna Iyer. They spoke candidly to him about the Court and each other. By the end of , Gadbois had interviewed every sitting or retired judge who was still living. Just as he began writing, however, he fell badly ill. Unable to teach, he retired prematurely. One is seal, and one is print. The next section of Emerson's discourse takes up the education of the scholar by books "the mind of the Past" , in what must have been to his auditors the most surprising if not the most perverse part of his address.
Not only is this traditional mainstay of education relegated to second place, as it were, but book learning also undergoes further disparagement. The problem of the book, for Emerson, is the same problem that attaches to any doctrine or form; it supplants the original thought or spirit that created it: "The sacredness which attaches to the act of creation,—the act of thought,—is instantly transferred to the record. Instantly, the book becomes noxious. The guide is a tyrant" pp. Books thus become a bar to original thought, and traditional education becomes an exercise in imitation.
The right use, indeed the only legitimate use of books is to inspire, to prompt us to think originally or, as Emerson phrases it more boldly, to "read God directly" p. If this last notion made some in the audience uneasy, as verging on heresy, it would get worse, for Emerson would return to Harvard the following year and, in his speech to the divinity school students, employ this same critique of the book to attack orthodox Christianity and its reliance on a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Lest one think, on the basis of this principle, that one can simply do without books or formal education, Emerson ends this section with an important caveat that puts us all back in the classroom: "Of course, there is a portion of reading quite indispensable to a wise man. History and exact science he must learn by laborious reading.
Because the traditional Harvard pedagogy involved endless numbing recitations sections, his implication is clear. The third influence on the scholar's development is action, and by his emphasis on this requirement Emerson seeks to counter the stereotype, especially common in nineteenth-century America, that intellectuals reside in ivory towers and shirk the rough-and-tumble of ordinary life and work.
The ground for the scholar's action is the same principle that Emerson announces in the "Nature" section of the essay: nature and the world correspond to the self and provide the tangible means to both self-knowledge and productive action: "The world,—this shadow of the soul or other me, lies wide around.
Its attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with myself. I launch eagerly into this resounding tumult" p.
The American Scholar
Besides, thought and action participate in what Emerson calls "That great principle of Undulation" or Polarity, by which apparently opposite qualities actually depend upon one another and call one another into being. This principle is "ingrained in every atom" and partakes of the overarching polarity of Power and Form in life, as Emerson would sketch it in "Experience" a few years later p.
The education of the scholar completed, it remains for Emerson to sketch his duties and to address the larger issue of how to solve the problem of Americans' long-standing sense of cultural inferiority with respect to Europe. His duties are rather easily dispensed with; they are conveyed in a sort of pep talk that Emerson addresses to the audience and to himself out of his own experience and hopes for his fledgling career as public intellectual.
The American Scholar Summary by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Though the scholar is liable to suffer disdain, poverty, and solitude in keeping on the right track, eventually he emerges as a hero:. He is to resist the vulgar prosperity that retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic sentiments, noble biographies, melodious verse, and the conclusions of history. Whatsoever oracles the human heart in all emergencies, in all solemn hours has uttered as its commentary on the world of actions,—these he shall receive and impart. The concluding section of the essay is devoted to an anatomy of the power that the American scholar will need to draw upon to produce this transformative effect on culture.
This power comes from a simple yet profound shift in how culture itself is defined and conceived: "This revolution," Emerson says, "is to be wrought by the gradual domestication of the idea of culture. The main enterprise of the world for splendor, for extent, is the upbuilding of a man" p. In thus locating the source of culture within the individual—a radical "domestication" if ever there was one—Emerson disposes of the principal negative condition that had stood in the way of America's cultural independence and maturity. Suddenly, instead of looking to Europe we could simply look within. The embarrassing disparity between the long history of European cultural production and the paucity of the same in the United States could be transcended or rendered moot by the realization that Culture with a capital "C" did not consist of the monuments and artifacts stored in museums or libraries but in the potential for self-culture within the individual.
This is "domestication" in a double sense: domestic as opposed to foreign, and domestic as pertaining to the individual and the internal as opposed to the public and the external.
This subtle but profound shift in the conception of the sources, the expression, and the transmission of high culture is what distinguished Emerson's call for American literary independence from the myriad of such pronouncements that preceded it. This is the foundation of Emerson's claim at the beginning of the essay that "our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close" p.
Another sense of this domestication pertains to the subject matter of American art and the artist's treatment of materials. There follows from Emerson's individual basis of culture, which in turn comes from a belief in each person's ability to access the divine and its manifestations in the world, a democratizing and anti-hierarchical turn in the arts. Interestingly Emerson sees this trend as already having happened, not as prospective: "the same movement which effected the elevation of what was called the lowest class in the state, assumed in literature a very marked and as benign an aspect.
Instead of the sublime and the beautiful, the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized" p. Thus Emerson does not so much predict the radical democratic practice of Walt Whitman and the realists as look back to English poets of the previous century and early-nineteenth-century Romantics: "this idea has inspired the genius of Goldsmith, Burns, Cowper, and in a newer time, of Goethe, Wordsworth, and Carlyle" p. There is no call yet, as there would be a few years later in "The Poet," for poets to sing specifically American songs celebrating the richness and diversity of the United States , and there are no Americans in Emerson's list of literary models.
Instead there is a kind of generic invocation of the ordinary—"the meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat"—none of which has a specifically American valence p.
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In fact, that already archaic word "firkin" signals that Emerson is chiefly thinking along pre-existing literary lines, much as his own poetry, for all the radical implications of his theory, remains largely grounded in conventional poetic diction and forms. Nevertheless, "The American Scholar" gave American intellectuals and would-be writers a firm basis for overcoming their sense of cultural inferiority with respect to Europe and especially England.
Neither the immediate prospects for literature nor the materialistic obsessions of contemporary business culture in which idealistic young people have no choice but to "turn drudges, or die of disgust" were promising, but the long-range outlook, based on nature, self-culture, and a healthy skepticism about received wisdom, was hopeful p.
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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson, pp. Boston and New York : Houghton Mifflin, Buell, Lawrence. Cambridge, Mass. Burkholder, Robert E. Packer, Barbara. New York: Continuum, Richardson, Robert D. Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Berkeley: University of California Press, Robinson, David.