Does Emerson endorse the ideology of American exceptionalism? Why or why not?

Emerson does not endorse the ideology of American exceptionalism, but is interested in the individual, not in America or any other nation. Source: Matthew J. Scherer, "Exceptional Emerson: American Exceptionalism and Emersonian Democracy," Theologies of American Exceptionalism (New York: New York University Press, 2011), pp. 106–121.

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Emerson does not endorse the ideology of American exceptionalism, because he is interested primarily in the individual, not in the nation or any other group.

Several of Emerson's essays and addresses, particularly "Experience" and "Self-Reliance ," have been singled out as expressions of American exceptionalism by scholars such as...

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Emerson does not endorse the ideology of American exceptionalism, because he is interested primarily in the individual, not in the nation or any other group.

Several of Emerson's essays and addresses, particularly "Experience" and "Self-Reliance," have been singled out as expressions of American exceptionalism by scholars such as Matthew Scherer, whose chapter in Sullivan and Hurd's Theologies of American Exceptionalism is attached below. This view claims Emerson as an American triumphalist, for instance, when he champions homegrown American culture against the older civilizations of Europe.

Emerson's point, however, is precisely that America is not exceptional in needing to develop a robust native culture. This is what all the European nations admired by American travelers were at some point obliged to do. In "Self-Reliance," he writes:

They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place.

More importantly, Emerson's focus is almost entirely on the exceptional individual. He has little interest in the national origin or affiliation of this person and regards nations as the offspring of great men, rather than the other way round. Again in "Self-Reliance," this viewpoint is perfectly clear:

Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age. ... A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.

Emerson is certainly interested in exceptionalism, but it is the exceptional individual that interests him, and there is no indication in his writing that this individual is more likely to originate from America than from anywhere else. If he focuses on America, it is primarily because he is writing in America, for an American audience.

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