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Issue Details: First known date: 2010... 2010 Transcendentalism, Emerson and Nineteenth-Century Australian Literary Culture
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'In Radical Cousins (1976), Joseph Jones conclusively demonstrates, within a broader project, affinities between American 'transcendentalist' literature and much colonial Australian verse: Harpur, Gay and O'Dowd, for example, are considered in relation to Emerson and Whitman. Jones reaffirms the 'American' circumstantial particularity of his 'transcendentalism', yet rightly insists also on derivative elements of its metaphysic and poetic, particularly from Coleridge and Carlyle, and from German Romanticism. The present paper will consider the colonial authors and several other manifestations of Australian 'transcendentalism' in relation to counterparts within the European diaspora, particularly American, and will discuss various contextual responses to the shared war against utilitarianism. Authors to be discussed to whom Jones gives little attention include Marcus Clarke, Catherine Spence and Ada Cambridge, as well as the painters Streeton and Roberts and from the early twentieth century, Elioth Gruner.

The challenges to Australian literary historiography presented by Jones's insights have been generally neglected. This paper will attempt to extend his approach by suggesting a frame of reference which individuates colonial Australian 'transcendentalism' by relating its common elements to different but pertinent colonial circumstances (both locally and globally conditioned) concerning, for example, 'nature', landscape and ecology; industrialism and urban settlement; philosophical idealism and Romantic theory. Questions will be raised concerning literary history, and also its relationship to nationalism: for example, why is 'transcendentalism' more prominent in American literary historiography than in its Australian counterpart, especially since its widespread significance can so readily and obviously be perceived? Why, indeed, is it erased or simply not seen? Why do discourses of literary nationalism in America focus on 'transcendentalism' whereas in Australia it is marginalized or excluded? What is the Australian colonial relationship, if any, between literary idealism and social improvement or transformation, in comparison with the social optimism and practical activism promoted by American literary transcendentalism?' (Author's abstract).

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Reading Across the Pacific : Australia-United States Intellectual Histories Robert Dixon (editor), Nicholas Birns (editor), Sydney : Sydney University Press , 2010 Z1754436 2010 anthology criticism 'Reading Across the Pacific is a study of literary and cultural engagement between the United States and Australia from a contemporary interdisciplinary perspective. The book examines the relations of the two countries, shifting the emphasis from the broad cultural patterns that are often compared, to the specific networks, interactions, and crossings that have characterised Australian literature in the United States and American literature in Australia.
    In the twenty-first century, both American and Australian literatures are experiencing new challenges to the very different paradigms of literary history and criticism each inherited from the twentieth century. In response to these challenges, scholars of both literatures are seizing the opportunity to reassess and reconfigure the conceptual geography of national literary spaces as they are reformed by vectors that evade or exceed them, including the transnational, the local and the global.
    The essays in Reading Across the Pacific are divided into five sections: National Literatures and Transnationalism, Poetry and Poetics, Literature and Popular Culture, The Cold War, and Publishing History and Transpacific Print Cultures' (Source: Publisher's website).
    Sydney : Sydney University Press , 2010
    pg. 39-61
Last amended 23 Feb 2011 10:57:00
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