Estimating Emerson

Estimating Emerson

This is the definitive anthology on America’s premier man of letters—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cornel West, Princeton University

Quite apart from the usefulness of having all these important essays handy, readers may also toy with this simple question: when writing about a writer’s work, over the years, have critics gotten better or have they gotten worse?

William H. Gass, Washington University

LaRocca has gathered together the most comprehensive one-volume collection of first-rate writers responding to Emerson since such reckonings became necessary.

Lawrence F. Rhu, University of South Carolina

An invaluable tool for anyone interested not only in Emerson scholarship but in the literary culture of the American Renaissance in general.

Ricardo Miguel-Alfonso, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha

I cannot think of a more useful and necessary resource for reading about and especially teaching Emerson’s complex but crucial essays than Estimating Emerson: An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell.

Richard Deming, Yale University

David LaRocca's Estimating Emerson is an essential anthology of criticism. Every lover of Emerson will be tempted to read deeply in this volume, which offers a rich spectrum of reactions to the Emersonian genius, from Emerson's own day to the present. It's not just a delightful book, but a necessary one. 

David Mikics, University of Houston

There are no similar collections on the market, nor have there ever been. There are collections of literary criticism, and there is a collected volume of Cavell’s essays [on Emerson], but there has never been such an effort to fuse literary and philosophical discourse, and to add poetics and poetry. Thus, the book will be unique contribution to the study of Emerson.

Branka Arsic, University at Albany

I am very impressed with the range and purpose of the book. . . . I can say with confidence that there is no other book like Estimating Emerson. Your book . . . is nicely balanced between academic and non-academic responses, critical and biographical studies, with even coverage from the beginnings till the twenty-first century.  I think that relative novices would find this a wonderful way to chart Emerson’s reputation, and even those of us with a little more familiarity would be enriched by the range of voices represented here, many of them hard to find today and some of them unfairly forgotten and deserving of resurrection. . . . I think this will be a very useful book, for scholars and for more general readers as well, that fills a void in Emerson studies.

Robert D. Habich, President, The Ralph Waldo Emerson Society; Editor, The Emerson Society Papers

LaRocca's Estimating Emerson: An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell is both very exciting and sorely needed. The pieces selected for inclusion, as many know, are all scattered hither and yon, and have been reproduced only intermittently or not at all. Yet together they would be a valuable resource for scholars, their students, and other readers of Emerson interested in his reception over the decades. In fact, the question of Emerson's reception—as for his close reader Nietzsche—is perhaps the question in assessing this writer's achievement and in coming to see what demands he places on his own writing and on the act of reading. I see LaRocca's anthology as helping to reveal to readers the power of Emerson's prose—not only on the page but for its first auditors; not only for those who knew Emerson as a neighbor but for those meeting his prose from across the Atlantic, even in translation. The organization of the volume, divided by consecutive scores of years, shows the astonishingly consistent engagement with Emerson since his own day, even as individual writers clash in their views across and even within the decades. Estimating Emerson looks to be an anthology that easily will find a place in the classroom for courses in American literature, American studies, and American philosophy.

William Day, Le Moyne College

An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell

Ralph Waldo Emerson is internationally renowned as helping to define American identity as we know it. What is less known is the degree to which he has inspired and influenced generations of other internationally celebrated writers and thinkers. As “America’s Plato,” it is perhaps not surprising that Emerson has drawn a lot of critical (in both senses of the word) attention; what is surprising, though, is the fact that so much of the attention was given by the likes of Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, the James brothers, Walt Whitman, D. H. Lawrence, George Santayana, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, John Updike, and William Gass. Estimating Emerson is the most comprehensive collection yet assembled of the finest minds writing on one of America’s finest minds. It serves as both a resource for easily accessing the abundant and profound commentary on Emerson’s work and as a compendium of exceptional prose to inspire further thought about his contribution to our thinking.



A Conversation Among Critics

Reflections and Readings from Estimating Emerson: An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell

The New York Public Library

South Court Auditorium

March 21, 2013

podcast to come

Talk & Tea

A Conversation Among Critics

Reflections and Readings from Estimating Emerson: An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell

The Signet Society

Harvard University

46 Dunster Street

Cambridge, Massachusetts

March 29, 2013

lunch at 1 pm

talk at 3 pm

tea at 5 pm


Bloomsbury has been named




at the 2013 Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) Awards



at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair

AND is nominated for two 2013 The Bookseller Industry Awards:




Book Review


Rama Gaind


PS News, Australia

October 8, 2013

click to read

Book Review

November 2013

[. . . ] One could read the collection chronologically as a history of the estimation of Emerson, or one could begin at any point and trace the circumference--the full circle--of Emerson's influence and provocation. Most pieces take on Emerson explicitly, but some do so implicitly in themes marked by the form in which they are reached, or that mark Emerson by the themes he himself encountered. This is a useful companion with which to re/read Emerson and discover him anew in the 21st century.

Summing Up: Highly recommended.
All academic and general audiences.