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Self-Reliance - Understanding the Essay

Colemanscurry If you're trying to write an essay on what Self-Reliance means, be sure to take Emerson's own ideas into consideration! A good teacher assigning an essay on Self-Reliance will admire a student who takes Emerson's thought seriously. Parroting back what you think the teacher wants to hear about Emerson is to violate the very spirit of the essay!But that doesn't mean that you can write just anything.

Looks at the problem of selfhood in Emerson's essay and relates that to relevance today, especially in religious belief in our increasingly-secular age.
A short essay, some selections from the essay, and some excellent questions for thinking about Emerson's ideas.
A short introduction to American culture about 1841, looking at Emerson's essay and its relationship to ideas of democracy, culture and the masses.
A Unitarian Universalist minister muses about the position of Emerson in that faith today, where he's often considered a "prophet of religious liberalism." - about the book and its author

- by Bryan Caplan - Kristen Rosenfeld - Piper S.

Summary of "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-Reliance is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s philosophy of individualism

Quotes About Self Reliance (235 quotes)

slaveholder were in stark contrast. But certainly, Emerson's later writing was more interested in relationships among people, and ethical behavior, than early works like "Self-Reliance" may indicate. Nevertheless, the worldview expressed in "Self-Reliance" is not, I would contend, one of radical separation of the individual from the rest of the universe, though Emerson has sometimes been accused of that view.

Some listed here may now be out of print or unavailable. (Sacks)

Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" is often the first or only exposure students get to Emerson's thought. Here are some resources to help understand this essay:

An essay introducing the background and context of Transcendentalism, for help in understanding where Emerson's ideas came from.
From Emerson himself, with some dictionary and other simple definitions listed as well.
Basic information on Transcendentalism - links to the two items above plus more.
- HTML searchable copy of the text at

Ann Woodlief's excellent introduction to the Emerson essay, Self-Reliance.
An article by Alfred I.

Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson - …

Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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