Nicole H. Gray, “The Sounds and Stages of Emerson’s Social Reform” (pp. 208–232)
This essay argues that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s antislavery reform efforts in the 1850s depended on a theory of transformation and mediation that shares ground with his linguistic and philosophical experiments. I base this claim on a reading of the sounds and citations at work in one political address, delivered in 1854 as part of an extended public reaction to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850. This essay takes up three different ways in which the structure of citation and revision (“recitation”) function in relation to this address. First, I discuss recitation in terms of critics’ conceptualization of Emerson’s general approach to language. Second, I consider Emerson’s recitation of a line from “La Marseillaise,” a revolutionary tune that became the French national anthem, in his journals and his speech. Finally, I turn to Emerson’s re-vision of his audience within this address, and in the space of his orations in general.
- © 2014 by The Regents of the University of California