The Poetics of Personal Renewal

  • David A. Granger


The subject of personal renewal brings us once again to the Emersonian idea of “work.” While the orientation of this work becomes variously more reflexive when viewed from the perspective of selfhood, the basic self-world materials remain identical to those contributing to cultural renewal. Put most simply, this work now takes the form of a pragmatic-poetic approach to subjectivity as an ongoing work-in-progress. Using his popular figure of circles, Emerson perceives it this way: “The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end.”1


Problematic Situation Linguistic Community Linguistic Activity Personal Encounter Habitual Body 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    As Clifford Geertz observes, this Cartesian conception of the self is far from universal: “The Western conception of the person as a bounded, unique, more or less integrated motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic center of awareness, emotion, judgment, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively both against other such wholes and against its social and natural background, is, however incorrigible it may seem to us, a rather peculiar idea within the context of the world’s cultures.” See Geertz’s Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 59.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness, with an Introduction by Bertrand Russell (New Jersey: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1961/1921), 57.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    Stephen Mulhall, Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 163.Google Scholar
  4. 20.
    Richard Shusterman, Practicing Philosophy: Pragmatism and the Philosophical Life (New York: Routledge, 1997), 106.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    See, for example, Cavell’s A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    Mark Johnson, Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), 152.Google Scholar
  7. 28.
    Dewey’s Introduction to Man’s Supreme Inheritance (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1918) can be found in MW 11: 350–352.Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Dewey’s Introduction to Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1923) can be found in MW 15: 308–315.Google Scholar
  9. 30.
    Randolph Bourne, “Making Over the Body,” New Republic 15 (1918): 28–29, reprinted in MW 11: 359–360.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    Shusterman, Practicing Philosophy, 219n.21. The brief quotations are from Cavell’s Philosophical Passages: Wittgenstein, Emerson, Austin, Derrida (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995) and A Pitch of Philosophy. I would argue that Shusterman is actually offering somewhat of a gloss here. Emersonian perfectionism does indeed ask that I make myself intelligible through my bodily behavior—to the fact that I might be in pain, for example. The human body, for Cavell, is part of the field of expression of the human mind. Still, this way of acknowledging our embodiedness is very different from actively pursuing avenues for somatic improvement.Google Scholar
  11. 38.
    Richard H. Rodino explores this issue in “Irony and Earnestness in Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” in Guidebook to Zen and, the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Ronald L. DiSanto and Thomas J. Steele, eds. (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990), 293–303.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David A. Granger 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Granger

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations