Grammars of Time, Senses of the Past
Emerson’s reaction to the ‘historical lumber-room’ of the Old World, which included Shakespeare and that pressure to cower imitatively in his wake surveyed at the outset of the last chapter, was to seize with great alacrity on the apparent detachment of America from history. For Emerson and his Transcendentalist fellow-travellers, the local and particular were valuable only as the means to, or types of, the universal; and temporal sequence, let alone the specific narratives of history, was a distraction from the progression, however inchoately expressible, to things spiritual and divine. America, and its cognates of poetry and ‘wonder’, like the Shakespeare Emerson had envisaged, could ‘spring’, ‘from the invisible, to abolish the past’ (‘Shakespeare; or, The Poet’ 119).
It is for America to abandon the ground on which hitherto the History of the World has developed itself. What has taken place in the New World up to the present time is only an echo of the Old World—the expression of a foreign life; and as a Land of the Future, it has no interest for us here, for, as regards History, our concern must be with that which has been and that which is. (87)
KeywordsAmerican Literature Creative Evolution Indirect Speech Liberal Imagination American Scene
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