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These insights, they argued, needed no external verification; the mere fact that they flashed across the mind proved they were true.To hold these beliefs required enormous self-confidence, of course, and this is where Emerson and “Self-Reliance” come into the picture.Emerson’s doctrine of self-sufficiency and self-reliance arose naturally from his view that the individual need only look inward for the spiritual guidance that was previously the province of the established churches.
The text analysis focuses on Emerson’s definition of individualism, his analysis of society, and the way he believes his version of individualism can transform — indeed, save — American society.
The first interactive exercise addresses vocabulary challenges.
“Self-Reliance” is central to understanding Emerson’s thought, but it can be difficult to teach because of its vocabulary and sentence structure.
This lesson offers a thorough exploration of the essay.
Indeed, nonconformity is a sign of strength: “Whoso would be a man,” he writes, “must be a nonconformist.” In a sense “Self-Reliance” can be seen as a pep talk designed to strengthen our resolve to stand up to society’s efforts to make us conform.
“Nothing,” Emerson thunders, “is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” This is individualism in the extreme.
This self defines not a particular, individual identity but a universal, human identity.
When our insights derive from it, they are valid not only for us but for all humankind.
When you hear a self-help guru on TV tell people that if they change their way of thinking, they will change reality, you hear the voice of Emerson.
He is America’s apostle of individualism, our champion of mind over matter, and he set forth the core of his thinking in his essay “Self-Reliance” (1841).