Elevated Domestication: Emerson on poetry, change, and permanence Open Access

Gaunt, Steve (Spring 2023)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5q47rq047?locale=en


In this paper, I claim we should read and write with a focus on provocation and inspiration. I pay special attention to the tensions at play in Emerson’s essays, starting from the broader aims of his writing rather than specific claims he makes. I then consider the tools for our discussion, arguing that aside from a philosophical sort of lens, poetry must be involved in its own analysis. I then look at how the highs in human experience relate to poetry, arguing on the grounds of real experience that poetry can reach outside time, finitude, and itself. I follow this up, as Emerson does, by considering the lows of human experience, arguing that they reach outside of poetic analysis in a different way, and that they can be worked through in art. Having tackled these disparate states, I reconcile them by arguing for poetry that contributes to self-improvement, keeping in mind our natural oscillation between highs and lows. This culminates into an argument for art that creates an elevated domestication—that reaches into our lives and shines beauty beyond artistic mediums.

Table of Contents

Note to the Reader                                                                                                   1

Chapter 1. Introduction: provocation and inspiration                                     2

Chapter 2. Poetry and Philosophy: meaning and analysis                               9

Chapter 3. Human Highs: moving outside ourselves                                        20

Chapter 4. Human Lows: staying inside ourselves                                            34

Chapter 5. Self-Improvement: where poetry can take us                                48

Chapter 6. Elevated Domestication: a possible guide                                      58

Bibliography                                                                                                              67

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