In the summer of 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard University. In his speech titled “The American Scholar”, he advocated that it was time for the United States to spread its wings and become independent of Europe.
For this set, I decided to visualize this quote from the speech: “In this distribution of functions, the scholar is the delegated intellect. In the right state, he is, Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking.” To do this, I focused on the concept of “man thinking” vs. “mere thinker”. The base color is black, signifying the vastness of life. On the “mere thinker” panel, the text is set in a simple plain type with a couple of arrows moving in one direction. This represents a person where ideas flow through without too much consideration;. The opposite panel shows “Man Thinking”. Many arrows representing ideas flow from all directions to the person which in turn takes these ideas and synthesizes new ones. The structured arrows ultimately form the person, and the big arrows show the results of the synthesis being shared back out into the world. The side panels say “intellect”. The are placed thusly to show that intellect is what separates a “mere thinker” from a “Man Thinking”.