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Campus News
     
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: December 9, 2002
Volume 38, Number 11

Philosophy hosts summer Emerson Institute

By Steve Carr

UNM Philosophy chair Russell Goodman has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to host a summer institute in 2003 for college professors and university teachers on “Ralph Waldo Emerson at 200: Literature, Philosophy, Democracy.”

During the last 25 years, many new insights and writings about Emerson have surfaced. Philosophers such as Stanley Cavell, literary critics like Barbara Packer and political theorists such as Cornel West have all written about Emerson.

“Although Emerson’s works never went out of fashion, there’s been a tremendous renewal of interest in Emerson over the last 30 years,” said Goodman. “In English and philosophy departments and in politics, people have been thinking about why his individualism is necessary in some way for democracy. In a lot of ways, he is the definitive American thinker.”

New writings about Emerson include Cavell’s "This New Yet Unapproachable America," "Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome," "Thinking of Emerson," and "Being Odd, Getting Even," Packer’s "Emerson’s Fall, and "The Trancendentalists" (in The Cambridge History of American Literature vol. 2) and West’s "The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism."

The five-week institute, which will be held at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, coincides with the bicentennial of Emerson’s birth on May 25, 1803. Participants will be studying particular essays by Emerson, such as Self-Reliance and The Divinity School Address, and will consider Emerson’s influence on the thought of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

In the third week, Barbara Packer of UCLA will present four lectures on Northern Intellectuals and the Mexican War. She will consider Emerson’s opposition to the war and to slavery, which made it possible in the new territories, and the misgivings of soldiers like Ulysses S. Grant.

The fourth week moves into political philosophy, led by Thomas Dumm, professor of Political Science at Amherst College and Cornel West, professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Princeton. The institute wraps up with a fifth week on Cavell and Emersonian Perfectionism.

For information visit www.unm.edu/~emerson or call 277-4024.