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v2.1 Reference

"Not Altogether Human"

Pantheism and the Dark Nature of the American Renaissance

Many leading American thinkers in the nineteenth century, who accepted the premises of Emersonian transcendentalism, valued the basic concept of pantheism: that God inheres in nature and in all things, and that a person could achieve a sense of belonging she or he lacked in society by seeking a oneness with all of nature. As Richard Hardack shows, however, writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville conceived of nature as everything "Other" —other than the white male Protestant culture of which they were a part. This conception of nature, then, became racialized, and the divine became associated with African American and Native American identities, as well as with femininity.

In "Not Altogether Human," Hardack reevaluates transcendentalism in the context of nineteenth-century concerns about individual and national racial identity. Elucidating the influence of pantheism, Hardack draws on an array of canonical and unfamiliar materials to remap the boundaries of what has long been viewed as white male transcendental discourse.

This book significantly revises notions of what transcendentalism and pantheism mean and how they relate to each other. Hardack's close analysis of pantheism and its influence on major works and lesser known writing of the nineteenth century opens up a new perspective on American culture during this key moment in the country's history.

About the Author

Richard Hardack completed his PhD in English and a JD at the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught at Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College.


"Hardack's scholarship on Emerson and Melville (and to some extent Hawthorne, Poe, and Lawrence) is not only up-to-date but revelatory, as the author reads and re-reads well known passages in essays, novels, and letters in the light of a philosophy (pantheism) which has not received this kind of attention before. . . . [Hardack] produces such unexpected insights, such brilliant passages of writing and thought, that I have made many new discoveries among texts I thought I knew well and wish to return to for further reflection."—Wyn Kelley, author of Melville's City: Literary and Urban Form in Nineteenth-Century New York

"Among the surprising insights of Hardack's book is the ubiquity of pantheism. . . . Historians [will] appreciate his deft recovery of a hitherto unappreciated cultural conversation."—The Journal of American History

"Arguing convincingly for the importance of pantheism to Emersonian and Melvillean epistemology, . . . 'Not Altogether Human' contains a valuable reading of pantheism in antebellum American literature, and of the Emerson-Melville relationship specifically."—ISLE

"Not only does Hardack illuminate the anxiety undergirding transcendentalism, the fear of a loss of individuality and the fear of a destabilized national identity, but he also raises questions as to how transcendentalism has been understood and interpreted as a philosophy, a spiritual practice, and a social movement. This interrogation of common interpretations is both compelling and persuasive. Hardack is well published in this area and scholars of intellectual history as well as literary theorists will be especially well-served by Not Altogether Human in that Hardack provides fresh perspectives on nineteenth-century transcendentalism and pantheism and provides meticulous readings of Emerson, Melville, and Hawthorne. Newcomers to Hardack's work will find that they are in good hands as he expertly navigates a complex literary landscape."—Journal of American Studies

"[A] stimulating, interpretive ride through once-familiar texts such as Moby-Dick and "The American Scholar." . . . Hardack's work will be of interest to scholars of both Emerson and Melville for its fresh and rigorous examination of the broad extent to which Melville responded to Emerson's transcendentalist thought. Additionally, cultural historians will find much of value in this new examination of pantheism as a force in American identity politics during the antebellum period."—New England Quarterly

"[Hardack] takes a meticulous look at the connections between some of the most well-known texts of the American Renaissance and how the infusion of pantheistic thinking helped to shape discussions of identity, race, and gender. . . . Hardack does an excellent job of revealing how the reach of pantheism goes far beyond the scope of just [Emerson and Melville]. The argument is convincing, and the scholarship is wonderfully arranged. Hardack's choice to include how theologians . . . reacted to the growth of pantheism in America creates a much needed context from which to draw conclusions as to the level with which some were worried about the influence of pantheism in America during the nineteenth century. Not Altogether Human provides a cogent and interesting vantage point from which one can discuss not only the works of Emerson and Melville, but many of the seminal texts of the American Renaissance. It is engaging and thoroughly accessible in a way that makes it both informative and enjoyable to read. Not Altogether Human adds a fresh perspective to arguably the richest period of American literature."—Religion & Literature
University of Massachusetts Press

9781558499577 : not-altogether-human-hardack
Paperback / softback
304 Pages
$29.95 USD

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