The Transparent Eyeball

The Transparent Eyeball is a blog devoted to a collaborative study of Emerson and the innumerable circles of conversation in which he participated and in which we continue to find him. We welcome short—500-1,000 word—submissions from undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, independent scholars, early career as well as established scholars, artists, activists, and the general public. We especially encourage submissions that address Emerson’s relevance in our 21st-century moment; consider him in conversation with philosophers, poets, environmentalists, artists, and activists, within and beyond the nineteenth century; and explore him in transnational and interdisciplinary contexts.

Submissions may take any form—meditations, provocations, polemics, analyses, critical-creative hybrids, personal reflections—but should be original work, jargon-free, and accessible to the general public. Submissions will be received on a rolling basis and reviewed by members of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society Media Committee. Submissions may be returned to applicants with suggested revisions. Please submit your Transparent Eyeball contributions to


Emerson and Race: A Provocation
Leslie Dumont

I believe Emerson has more to offer on the topic of blackness than what he has written explicitly about race. While I still do not know if when he says “man” he also means black man, it is clear to me that Emerson—whether he fully realized it or not—modeled his ideal person, the self-reliant man, on the life and work of the black slave . . . [READ MORE]

Emerson’s Copula: Transcendental Theopoetics
Bill Scalia

Describing the landscape of theopoetics today is difficult because it’s hard to delineate the territory to which the term lays claim. . .for Emerson, God is not a subject, nor can God be predicated . . . [READ MORE] 

Transcendentalism and The Black Atlantic
Katie Simon

Since the publication of Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic (1993), traditional frameworks for analyzing British and American literature have been challenged. Gilroy’s paradigm-shifting work considers the Atlantic as a cultural and political system emergent from Transatlantic slavery, pushing us beyond our geographic and national comfort zones (Cartwright 76). In the wake of The Black Atlantic, “readers of what had been regionally, racially, and nationally isolated literatures have been pushed to examine previously unexplored modes of double consciousness and countercultural modernity” (Cartwright 75) . . . [READ MORE] 


‘I seem to have lost a beautiful estate’: Childhood and property in Emerson’s ‘Experience’
Kristina West

Waldo was Emerson’s first-born child and just five years old when he died of scarlet fever on 28 January 1842. His father wrote in his journal: “Yesterday night at 15 minutes after eight my little Waldo ended his life” . . . [READ MORE]

Get Health: Reading Emerson in Pandemic Times
Stephen Rachman

For many years I have been turning over in my mind one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s gnomic directives from The Conduct of Life . . . When the present, ongoing COVID pandemic hit, I returned to Emerson’s directive with fresh eyes . . . [READ MORE]

Emersonian Sentimentalism and George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo 
Georgia Walton

I suggest that Emerson, and more particularly “Experience,” offer a useful way of reading the contemporary debate about the relationship between empathy and literature as it is staged in one of the most prominent novels of recent years: George Saunders’ Man-Booker-Prize-winning novel, Lincoln in the Bardo . . . [READ MORE]


Emerson Therapy
Mary Barford

It’s a sweltering summer day in central Illinois. My brother and I are walking miles along a railroad track toward a tow yard to retrieve the car we currently share, our parent’s old Toyota station wagon. At some point along the way, when all irritations have melted away and we find ourselves deep in the easy rhythm of our companionship, Dan throws a rock at a far away tree, hits it square and says, “ok, give me an Emerson.” . . .  [READ MORE]

Emerson and Antaeus, the Broken Giant
Christina Katopodis

Emerson advocates, across his oeuvre but especially in his 1833 lecture on “The Uses of Natural History,” and again in 1841 in the essay “History,” communing with nature as a habit of both mind and body. He writes, “Man is the broken giant, and in all his weakness he is invigorated by touching his mother earth, that is, by habits of conversation with nature” . . . [READ MORE] 

“a cigar had uses”: Emerson as Advertising Icon
Michael C. Weisenburg

What does Ralph Waldo Emerson have in common with the Malboro Man and Joe Camel? All three were used to hawk tobacco products. Long before Philip Morris and R. J. Reynolds created fictional characters to help brand their cigarette lines, the Warren Cigar Company, Frank P. Lewis Cigar Co., and the Deisel-Wemmer-Gilbert Corporation co-opted Emerson’s name and likeness to promote several cigar lines. . . . [READ MORE]


Breathing Through Forms: The Influence of “The Poet” on the Poems of Dickinson
Rowan Beckford

The brief poem “Let me not thirst with this Hock at my Lip” is concerned with a dichotomy of poetic wealth and impoverishment. It is intensively perceived, subjective, and ushers the reader into the world of what Emerson calls “ulterior intellectual perception” (Emerson 72). This follows Emerson’s declaration that “all are emblems,” meaning that all things—persons, objects, words, even concepts—are representative of other things . . . [READ MORE]

Between Self-Reliance and Responsibility: Rereading the Emersonian Sublime in an Age of Crisis
David Lombard

In “The Over-Soul” (1841), Emerson defines the eponymous concept as the “Unity” or “whole” within which “every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other” (52). Although the Over-soul is ineffable, “[w]e know that all spiritual being is in man” and one can communicate with the divine through “revelation” of the “emotion of the sublime” (53-57, emphasis added). The Emersonian Sublime thus bridges the gap between the human and the divine, making us aware of our boundless capacities . . . [READ MORE]

Emerson Epigraphs in Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers 
Michael S. Martin

Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849) is as sprawling and dense as any American nature journal from the mid-19th-century. The book, based upon a two-week canoe trip that Thoreau took with his recently-deceased brother John, is interspersed with dozens of textual allusions; most notably, Thoreau uses his own, original poetry incorporated throughout the book and poetic epigraphs from other authors at the beginning of each chapter . . . [READ MORE]

A Letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rebecca Wein-David

Dearest Ralph Waldo Emerson,

I write to you through the gaping gulf of time, as your thoughts have bridged this gap and touched my soul . . . [READ MORE]


Legacies of Resistance: Emerson, Buddhism, and Richard Wright’s Pragmatist Poetics
Anita Patterson

In these dark and uncertain times, it is inspiring to learn how Emerson’s legacy has fostered a life-affirming intercultural dialogue in works by African American writers.  Consider, for example, his engagement with Buddhism. . . [READ MORE]

“Brahma” Contains Multitudes: Hinduism’s Influence on Emerson
Gary Ricketts

Ralph Waldo Emerson inherited his father’s affinity for Hinduism and lived long enough to convey its importance to Western spirituality during the first generation of American scholars to have some access to Hindu scriptures. . . [READ MORE] 

An Essay about & an Excerpt from Living from the Soul
Sam Torode

I believe that Emerson’s voice is needed now as much as ever, in this time of national crisis.  Throughout his career, he spoke out against racial injustice and in support of American ideals. One of his continual themes is that we’re all connected. . . [READ MORE]