The American Scholar and Making

We didn’t get a chance to read it last class, but The American Scholar was on the syllabus.  You can read it for free here.

Some of you may remember some of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work in English during the section on Transcendentalism (an idea I’m quite fond of actually). While there is influence of this idea in the American Scholar, Emerson points out some ideas that are quite applicable to our class and making. Take this quote for example:

“It is the raw material out of which the intellect moulds her splendid products. A strange process too, this, by which experience is converted into thought, as a mulberry leaf is converted into satin. The manufacture goes forward at all hours.”

I think this is a really good way to describe making: the raw material is what the creations are made from and it is indeed our intelligence that is required for making, even if you have the instructions right in front of you. You still have to figure stuff out, maybe substitute something you don’t have, or maybe you just want to add a personal touch or an original idea. That’s still using your brain, right? Then, you use your new experience and apply it to the next thing, or maybe something else entirely. As Emerson says you’re converting your experience into though.

Now this is the actual context of the quote, and it’s something Prof. Vee told us last week, but maybe not in so many words…….

“I do not see how any man can afford, for the sake of his nerves and his nap, to spare any action in which he can partake. It is pearls and rubies to his discourse. Drudgery, calamity, exasperation, want, are instructors in eloquence and wisdom. The true scholar grudges every opportunity of action past by, as a loss of power.”

The part on books is interesting to note, as it isn’t digital self-reliance, but the equivalent of the time. Your thoughts?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The American Scholar and Making

  1. profvee says:

    Kudos to you for tracking down the Emerson reading! Indeed, we ran out of time to look at it. I’m hoping to find time in a future class to read through parts of “The American Scholar”–as you note, it’s very relevant to the theme of our class!

  2. Pingback: Final Blog Portfolio » Making / Hacking / Composing