an informative guide to how the genre of the essay has been conceptualized and conventionalized in literary history. The phantom is through the mind and out of the window before we can lay salt on its tail, or is slowly sinking and returning to the profound darkness which it has lit up momentarily with a wandering light. Hes one of the worlds great noticers, his essays suffused with the texture of everyday sensation. They test and sample a mind that is an I to itself, as all minds are.
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One can read him randomly, too, as if web-surfing, confident that any page will yield something pungent, pithy, or profound. This is not to say that people had been unconscious in the periods before, or that accounts of individual lives had not been written, such as by Augustine or Abelard. That sensibility sometimes left Emerson breathless. . One can easily imagine a contemporary literary agent surveying this merry mess, then pitching it into the trash can. It seemed to me as if I had myself written the book, in some former life, so sincerely it spoke to my thought and experience, Emerson declared. In his writings, Montaigne"s the Greek commentator Plutarch so often that the ancient historian and moralist presides over the essays like a favored uncle at the dinner table. And his father, whom he adored, had recently suffered a prolonged and agonizing death from a kidney stone. The fruits of that period of relative seclusion secured his place in posterity. Be said to be the first sustained representation of human consciousness in Western literature, said Frampton. To fly to the dead orb of the moon and return is an amazing feat but only that.