Metaphysics and the Charge of Misanthropy : Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Circles” as a Cipher for Understanding the Connection between Robinson Jeffers and Herman Melville
Date of Award
College of Liberal Arts
Type of Degree
Herman Melville’s and Robinson Jeffers’s metaphysical thoughts reflect Ralph Waldo Emerson’s notion of looking towards Nature for discovery; all three writers’ observations of Nature influence how they see humanity’s place in existence. Both Melville and Jeffers observe Nature decentralizing humanity, which distinguishes their views from Emerson’s. Where Jeffers’s verse sternly voices this message, openly criticizing the anthropocentric viewpoint, Melville utilizes humor, subtly confronting the anthropocentric proponent and downplaying humanity’s power. Jeffers garners the label of misanthrope, whereas Melville’s metaphysical realm in Moby-Dick largely escapes this charge with the masking quality of his humor. Comparing both writers’ texts to an Emersonian observance of Nature reveals Jeffers’s and Melville’s ideas of humanity’s place in the cosmos. While observing the confluence of agreement in their conclusions, readers can delineate the effect of the tones employed by Jeffers and Melville. Such close reading can reveal the influence of Emerson, the similarity of metaphysical notions between Jeffers and Melville, and the effect of humor on a reader’s reception.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882 - Criticism and interpretation.
Melville, Herman, 1819-1891 - Criticism and interpretation.
Jeffers, Robinson, 1887-1962 - Criticism and interpretation.
Metaphysics in literature.
Stark, Hunter, "Metaphysics and the Charge of Misanthropy : Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Circles” as a Cipher for Understanding the Connection between Robinson Jeffers and Herman Melville" (2010). Theses, Dissertations and Capstones. 152.
American Literature Commons, Classics Commons, Metaphysics Commons