This is the first and only comprehensive selection of lectures by Ralph Waldo Emerson, his era's most prominent American man of letters and one of the foremost architects of our intellectual culture. Based on authoritative texts selected and edited by Ronald A. Bosco and Joel Myerson - the most experienced Emerson editors working today - these twenty-five addresses collectively exemplify the lecture style for which Emerson was famed in his day. Best known to his contemporaries as a lecturer, Emerson delivered some 1,500 addresses over the course of his career. Because his most important ideas were worked out in his lectures, they provide the best record we have of his evolving thought - and thus are a key to our understanding of his essays and other printed works. Gathered here are lectures on American culture, literary theory and aesthetics, moral and, as Emerson called it, ""intellectual"" philosophy, and social and political reform. They are taken from speaking engagements in the United States and the British Isles over the period 1833-1871, during which Emerson often spent four to six months a year on the lecture circuit; lectures from the earliest years of Emerson's career (1833-1842) have been newly edited for this volume. The volume's introduction draws on contemporary accounts to describe Emerson's idiosyncratic but utterly memorable manner of speaking. A headnote provides context to the composition and delivery of each lecture, and footnotes identify Emerson's allusions to persons, places, occasions, quotations, and books. ""By examining his lectures and how they were delivered,"" say Bosco and Myerson, ""we can look into the laboratory of Emerson's intellectual and compositional process and see his published writings gestating.
Ronald A. Bosco is Distinguished University Professor of English and American Literature at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Joel Myerson is Carolina Distinguished Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of South Carolina.