Closereads on Emerson’s Oversoul: Audio and Video Podcast Premiere

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Are we underlyingly all really a single, unified organism? Or do we just have a lot in common? We begin unraveling this puzzling claim by reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1841 essay “The Over-Soul.” Read along with us.

This is the public premiere of a new weekly series by the most verbose of your PEL hosts. If you witnessed last week’s Schelling Part Three release, then this should sound very familiar. We pick a short text (not just any text, but one where we’ve previously covered the author on PEL or can otherwise speak with some background about the author) and we read through it, stopping every paragraph (or even line-by-line) to try to figure out what’s being said.

There will be no change in your regular PEL releases (apart from this week; we needed some summer vacation). This is just an extra thing that the two of us who have less demanding day jobs are doing.

If you have ideas for readings for us to cover in this format, please email us at

Sponsor: Check out Drilled, a true-crime podcast about climate change.

Announcement: Enrollment for Mark’s fall Core Philosophy Texts class is now open. Sign up now to ensure your place in either the Friday afternoon or Saturday morning class at

How to hear more Closereads: This episode is only the first of four parts; it took us nearly four hours to read through this essay. The other parts will all be up this week, but will only be visible to those support Closereads through (at $5/month). For this subscription price, you’ll get at least four episodes per month. If you’ve been putting off supporting PEL itself, you can bundle your support for PEL and Closereads by subscribing to the $10/month Citizen Plus tier at On both sites, there’s a discount for signing up for a full year.

Never signed up at Patreon before? It’s very easy to maintain your memberships, and you can then listen to your supporter content ad-free through any podcast app (including Spotify, due to a new partnership they have with Patreon) by opening your uniquely generated feed URL within that app. Because Patreon allows us to upload video to their site, you also won’t have to see any YouTube-inserted ads (which, incidentally, PEL does not get any money from; this is just the cost of us hosting files there).

You can watch one more free Closereads video (the first from our pilot 3-part series on Hegel writing about Spinoza) on YouTube. All three parts are available right now for you on both Patreon sites.

More about this format: Many PEL listeners enjoy our presentation but don’t have the time or confidence to engage with these texts directly. We hope to demonstrate how we take on these texts and hopefully add some value in our musings and connections. As usual, we are not experts on these readings, and these Closereads involve little to no prep, so don’t expect us to be doing ancient Greek etymology telling you how this commentator or that commentator interprets the passage. Instead, you get a fresh, authentic encounter with the text, with you sitting there as our third (silent) participant.

A major new element in this is that we’re shooting video for all of these. While you’re welcome to just listen to the audio per usual in your podcast player, you can also choose to sit down, open the text, and watch the video. (Maybe pause a lot and take notes yourself!) Going forward, we’ll plan to post these within a day of shooting them, and if we get enough support to warrant it, we’d like to record them more than once a week, particularly since even a short essay may require multiple sessions to get through. This means that unlike PEL episodes, these will receive little to no editing, so you’ll hear more instances of “uh” and “you know” (and silences as we think!) than in a normal episode, but we’re going to keep working on getting better with our diction, and really, you can just up your listening speed by a notch if it’s bugs you. (Note that you can do this on YouTube as well.)

The image is by Corey Mohler of the wonderful Existential Comics. The music is “Lost the World” by Mark’s band New People, from their 2008 debut album The Easy Thing. Here the song and much more music by Mark at, or look up the song on any streaming service.

Listen to PEL’s previous episode on Emerson.

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