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Transformation Now!Toward a Post-Oppositional Politics of Change$
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AnaLouise Keating

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037849

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037849.001.0001

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“American” Individualism, Variations on a Theme

“American” Individualism, Variations on a Theme

or, Self-Reliance, Transformed!

Chapter:
(p.60) Chapter Two “American” Individualism, Variations on a Theme
Source:
Transformation Now!
Author(s):

AnaLouise Keating

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252037849.003.0002

This chapter investigates and revises conventional models of individualism and personal selfhood. Given the central roles Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau have played in constructing an “American” self and an “American” literary tradition, canonical transcendentalist texts like Emerson's “Self-Reliance” and Thoreau's Walden offer a useful point of departure for this investigation. This chapter redefines individualism—including canonical versions of individualism—in more relational terms. When we (re)read mainstream versions of “American” individualism and self-reliance through the work of contemporary U.S. women of colors, all parties are transformed: self-reliance becomes a highly democratic, relational endeavor that simultaneously extends canonical interpretations of personal freedom outward to include previously ignored groups and redefines “American individualism” by reconfiguring the relationship between personal and communal identities.

Keywords:   individualism, American individualism, personal selfhood, self-reliance, personal freedom, personal identity, communal identity

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