Benjamin Pickford completed his PhD on Ralph Waldo Emerson at the University of Nottingham in September 2014. He is currently working on two monograph projects - an intellectual biography of Emerson focusing on his poetic theory, and a cross-disciplinary study of alternative economic models in late nineteenth-century American culture.

Book Review: Against Self-Reliance: The Arts of Dependence in the Early United States by William Huntting Howell

Stressing in his introduction that his concern is the ‘facts on the ground’ (11) in American history, Howell draws on quotidian and largely overlooked aesthetic projects such as the design of coins and schoolgirl samplers to offer some genuinely original work on how creative work in America was consanguineous with the processes of state-building. Continue reading

Book Review: Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis: Challenging Our Infatuation with Numbers by Michael Mack

Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis is, very consciously, a timely book. The crisis of the title is the political climate in which higher education in the arts and humanities currently finds itself. In the face of demands to demonstrate its economic contribution, arts education and research has been encouraged to make sometimes questionable claims for its ‘impact,’ its transferable values, or, in the event that its economic worth is not so readily visible, to make equally grandiose statements in support of its ethical or philanthropic mission. Continue reading

Book Review: American Impersonal: Essays with Sharon Cameron edited by Branka Arsić

Sharon Cameron’s critical output has slowed since her emergence as a major voice on American literature in the 1980s, but, as this beguiling and suggestive volume of essays shows, her influence continues to grow as it informs the most innovative approaches to the subject in the twenty-first century. Continue reading

‘Now comes good sailing’: Henry David Thoreau’s Cape Cod (1865) and Early Postbellum America

Although the text for May’s forthcoming #bookhour discussion, Henry David Thoreau’s Cape Cod, has never attracted scholarship in the way that Walden, ‘Resistance to Civil Government’, and the Journal have done, it echoes the blend of geniality, history, metaphysics, and occasional grotesqueries found in the celebrated works of contemporaries such as Hawthorne, Melville, or Poe. Continue reading