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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 95

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This is the grave of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Born in 1803 in Boston at the site of the Macy’s downtown (there’s a little plaque on the building), Emerson was the most important of the transcendentalists, a literary movement which is honestly kind of intolerable to read. Maybe I am not much of a romantic (oh, hey Happy Anniversary to my wife. Too bad I am in Seattle at a conference and doing research in fishing industry publications while you are packing up my apartment), but the flowery language and ideology of Emerson never appealed to me. Part of this is also his emphasis on American individualism, which I see as a plague that seriously gets in the way of class consciousness or collective solutions to any problem. Not that Emerson was a bad guy. He certainly had good politics and the right people hated him, although he was not a real public person and did not speak out much about slavery even though he despised it. I know I should have more to say about Emerson, but I don’t have the patience or time right now to revisit his essays, which I found tiresome the first time I read them 15 years ago or so. Call me a heathen, if you will. In any case, no one can question his importance to American letters or American philosophy (and I certainly do appreciate his call for an American style of letters). He died in 1882.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

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