Through the use of qualitative content analysis (Patton, 2002), this essay examines the philosophical thoughts presented in the journal and family letters of Edward B. Emerson for 1831-1834, written in the Caribbean while he was seeking relief from consumption (tuberculosis). The analysis focused on the themes of nature writing, American Exceptionalism, and the journal as evidence of a liminal life-death event. Edward was actively engaged in the genres of travel and nature writing, where Transcendentalist ideas were not evident. In contrast, important elements of that movement emerged in his philosophical expressions. Edward evinced an acute and creative mind until the end of his life, and his philosophical thoughts can be placed under the rubric of the philosophy of life. Edward's texts manifest a prejudiced contempt toward the people and culture of Puerto Rico and showed a sense of elitism that reflects American Exceptionalism, but his beliefs of human perfectibility seem to derive from a religious model of absolute moral conceptions. Edward's liminal intimations of mortality elicited a textual silence on consumption and death. The figure of the tragic hero fits Edward's life and demise.


Philosophy, Transcendentalism, Content Analysis, Consumption, Tragic Hero, Edward Bliss Emerson


The author has received no funding for this project and has no conflict of interest to report.

Acknowledgements: I render thanks to my colleagues Ada Haiman Arena and Ángel A. Román Franco, for their valuable recommendations during the preparation of the manuscript.

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