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America as Network

Notions of Interconnectedness in American Transcendentalism and Pragmatism

Regina Schober


Pages 97 - 119

open-access



The network represents a prevalent figure of thought in U.S. American culture. This essay argues that American Transcendentalism and Pragmatism, as precursors to current network theories, share a particular mode of “networked thinking” that relies on concepts commonly associated with “America” or “Americanness” such as decentralization, informal associations, mobility, adaptation, and distributed power relations. The reading of some exemplary texts by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, William James, and Gertrude Stein examines the various ways in which they propose and negotiate visions of interconnection in relation to notions of the self, creativity, and geographical/cultural space. As a more or less explicit conceptual model, the network allows these texts to explore epistemological, aesthetic, and political questions in relation to conceptions of the U.S. as a constantly shifting, yet integrative configuration.

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