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Our Preposterous Use of Literature Emerson and the Nature of Reading cover
  • ISBN: 9780252025389
  • ISBN10: 0252025385

Our Preposterous Use of Literature Emerson and the Nature of Reading

by T. S. McMillin

  • List Price: $32.50
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Illinois Pr
  • Publish date: 03/01/2000
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Since the midnineteenth century, the figure and the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson have been made to stand for the true nature of America and for closely guarded ideals of the American literary tradition. In more material realms, we can find Emerson or quotations of his works selling everything from insurance policies to tennis shoes.

Our Preposterous Use of Literature is a dazzling critique of summary uses of literature and encapsulating methods of reading, methods that in effect limit or destroy the texts they purport to interpret. Using the historical reception of the works of Emerson as a case study, T. S. McMillin conducts a bold inquiry into the political and philosophical nature of reading. He examines the ways in which Emerson's texts have been read in the United States and the myriad methods by which those texts have been pillaged, picked over, and repackaged -- in a word, consumed -- by biographers, political apologists, self-help proponents, entrepreneurs, and academicians alike.

By investigating how these readers have appropriated Emerson's texts to serve their own ends (all the while proclaiming to have produced "the meaning of Emerson"), McMillin shows how a reductive, consumptive method of reading alters both the process of the textual encounter and the nature of the text itself. A profound meditation on the office of the scholar, the use of literature, and the nature of texts, Our Preposterous Use of Literature proposes a new natural philosophy of reading: a method of reading at once more responsible to the texts we interpret and more closely connected to the worlds in which our interpretations take place.

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