Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In this dissertation, I articulate a hermeneutics for reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s seminal text Nature through drawing on the insights of the contemporary philosopher Sebastian Rödl. Particularly, the performative, literary characteristics of Rödl’s quite conceptual work resonate with the poetic strategies that Emerson employs in Nature. In the section on the work of Rödl, I make the performative aspects of his philosophy explicit through a close reading of the way self-consciousness happens in his texts through the language he employs. Rödl refers to his elucidation of self-consciousness as idealism. In the section on Emerson, I show how Emerson’s project of engaging and transforming the individual soul also rests upon a performative idealism that occurs within his writing. Thus, I demonstrate how Emerson transforms the idealism that he inherited from such thinkers as Coleridge and Kant into a poetics of transcendence. The aims of this work point in the directions of heightening the value of Emerson’s texts beyond their historical importance, showing the significance of idealism for both literature and philosophy, and establishing a communication between literature and philosophy along the lines of the poetics of idealism.



Committee Chair

Kronick, Joseph