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The Original 1841 Essay With Twelve New Essays

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jessica Helfand


A refreshed and covetable new edition of a timeless text

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When Ralph Waldo Emerson published his seminal essay on self-reliance in 1841, the United States was still reeling from the effects of a calamitous financial collapse four years earlier. His positive vision for the power of individualism and personal responsibility was issued in a climate of panic and uncertainty, at a time when the values of society and humanity were shifting. The global pandemic of 2020 has reshaped our world as well as our thinking, but Emerson’s call to independence remains as relevant and energizing as ever. Written as the first waves of the virus surged, the twelve accompanying essays in this volume address various aspects of artistic engagement — writing, drawing, thinking, making — expanding on the spirit of Emerson’s essay to reimagine the process and practice of what it means to be truly creative.


'gorgeously reimagined ... helps modern readers process this current moment of upheaval with much-needed Emersonian grace'

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 19.8 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 96 pp

Publication date: 6 May 2021

ISBN: 9780500024478

Contents List

The Waldo Emerson Essay
1. The Value of Barriers to Self-Reliance
2. Self-Reliance and the Individual
3. Self-Reliance and Society

Twelve essays by Jessica Helfand
On Learning
On Gravity
On Closure
On Loneliness
On Character
On Uncertainty
On Magnanimity
On Love
On Alchemy
On Chance
On Authenticity
On Individualism
On Narrative

About the Author

Jessica Helfand is an artist, designer and writer. She grew up in Paris and New York City, and was educated at Yale University where she taught for more than two decades. A founding editor of Design Observer, she is the author of numerous books on visual and cultural criticism, including Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media and Visual Culture, Design: The Invention of Desire and Face: A Visual Odyssey.