“Her Cause Against Herself‟: Margaret Fuller, Emersonian Democracy, and the Nineteenth-Century Public Intellectual

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

American Nineteenth Century History


Recent interpretations of Margaret Fuller's ideological significance have embedded her biography in an older understanding of Transcendentalism's history that imagines a post‐Brook Farm cleavage between ‘Emersonian individualists’ and more socially conscious communitarians. In late 1844, Margaret Fuller left New England for employment at Horace Greeley's New‐York Tribune, a moment that a number of biographers and critics have imagined as Fuller's own personal Brook Farm, her resignation from the ‘party of Emerson.’ Recent work in the history of Transcendentalism and romantic liberalism more generally, however, has been more careful about confusing romantic individuality with modern bourgeois individualism. This essay furthers the discussion of Transcendentalist ideology by arguing that Fuller's New York journalism was representative of the broad intellectual unity of the movement's democratic experiments – experiments that experientially, socially, and intellectually aimed to overcome the boundaries between the body and the mind, manual and mental labor, and the manual and mental classes.