The Keys of Power
The Rhetoric and Politics of Transcendentalism
Crick examines the Transcendentalist understanding of how power is constituted in both th self and in society, conceptualizing the relationships among technology, nature, language, and identity, critiquing the ethical responsibilities to oneself, the other, and the state, and defining and ultimately praising the unique role that art, action, persuasion, and ideas have in the transformation of the structure of political culture over historical time.
What is offered hereis not a comprehensive genealogy of ideas, a series of individual biographies, or an effort at conceptual generalization,but instead an exercise in narrative rhetorical theory and criticism that interprets some of the major specific writings and speeches by men and women associated with the Transcendentalist movement—Sampson Reed, Amos BronsonAlcott, Orestes Brownson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, and Frederick Douglass—by placing them within a specific political and social history. Rather than attempting to provide comprehensive overviews of the life and work of each of these individuals, this volume presents close readings of individual texts that bring to life their rhetorical character in reaction to particular exigencies while addressing audiences of a unique moment. This rhetoric of Transcendentalism provides insights into the "keys of power"—that is, the means of persuasion for our modern era—that remain vital tools for individuals seeking to reconcile power and virtue in their struggle to make manifest a higher ideal in the world.
"This is a brilliant and beautifully written book. It is also a muscular book that engages, grapples with, and overthrows the dominant idea that Transcendentalism was the dying gasp of a displaced group of New England literati rudely eclipsed by a new materialist group of industrialists and entrepreneurs. With great intellectual daring, Nathan Crick smashes utterly the image of Emerson and his cadre as an effete group alarmed and threatened by social change. He challenges the traditional concept of power as a unified system of the control of resources with the rhetorical power of the Transcendentalist, a power of moral authority directed toward ends. In highlighting the struggle between institutional control and personal moral authority, Transcendentalism has left its claw marks on the American character."—Andrew King, professor emeritus, Louisiana State University
Other Titles by Nathan Crick
Other Titles from Studies in Rhetoric/Communication
Other Titles in LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Rhetoric