Ordinary Human Language

by Brian Crane

American American Transcendentalism

Gura’s book paints a portrait of the brahmins behind the Brahmins in antebellum Boston.

Or, to say it differently, this is the story of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern but cast into a “making of” documentary to be included with the DVD or the iTunes Extras. The main players are trotted out for a review of their best scenes—we get Emerson, we get Thoreau—but the focus rests squarely on how the work of behind-the-scenes players makes them stand out the way they do.

The research is sweeping, the writing clear (if dense!), and the narrative ties together various strands of knowledge into a whole that is genuinely illuminating. The early chapters on German New Criticism are an especially fascinating example of this.

The book genuinely changed how I think about this period.

Posted September 21, 2015