This Massachusetts-born leader of the American transcendentalist movement was as much a philosopher as he was a writer, and his ideas on the relationship between man, nature, the divine soul, and creativity helped shape the American literary identity of the 19th century. Leading other transcendentalists like Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller, Emerson sought to recreate the American literary aesthetic, calling for a more original, more organic, more spiritually independent literature. He denounced over reliance on book learning, writing: "I had better never see a book, than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system." His essays, "Nature" (1836), "The American Scholar" (1837), and "the Divinity School Address" (1838) form the foundation of his transcendentalist theories and are undoubtedly his most well-known works. He also published three collections of poetry, and The Conduct of Life (1860), a collection of personal essays on a variety of subjects, including fate, wealth, worship, and beauty.
(Compiled by Joey Franklin)