Self Reliance and Other Essays

The Importance of Oratory in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Works College

Ralph Waldo Emerson is generally remembered as one of the most influential writers of the American Renaissance. He is the father of the philosophical movement Transcendentalism, that is, the American equivalent of the European movement Romanticism. During his career, Emerson wrote several essays and delivered more than 1500 lectures all around the United States. Even if his written outputs had a significant impact on the American authors of the following generations, Emerson earned his living and obtained his popularity as a public lecturer. Oratory is, indeed, Emerson main strength, as well as the subject he analyzed more in his works.

In both his essays and journal, Emerson acknowledges that oratory was not merely an exhibition of one-person opinion; rather, successful speech produces a synthesis between speaker and hearer that reveals a mutual identity. According to the literature professor Granville Ganter, “Emerson’s sense of successful oratory is closely tied to the concept of abandonment, a word he associates with the oracular genius” (270). Ganter affirms that Emerson believed that everyone has the quality to be a successful orator, but that not everyone goes through enough hardship to develop their skills. Both in his...

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