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Transcendentalists: Great Thinkers and Unemployed Tree Huggers.

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Presentation on theme: "Transcendentalists: Great Thinkers and Unemployed Tree Huggers."— Presentation transcript:

1 Transcendentalists: Great Thinkers and Unemployed Tree Huggers

2 History Up to 1840 American writing in content and style still reflects European influencesUp to 1840 American writing in content and style still reflects European influences In 1837 Emerson calls for literary independenceIn 1837 Emerson calls for literary independence “We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe. We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.”

3 The American Renaissance 1850s: “The Flowering of New England”1850s: “The Flowering of New England” Emerson: Representative ManEmerson: Representative Man Hawthorne: Scarlet LetterHawthorne: Scarlet Letter Melville: Moby DickMelville: Moby Dick Stowe: Uncle Tom’s CabinStowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin Thoreau: WaldenThoreau: Walden Whitman: Leaves of GrassWhitman: Leaves of Grass

4 Influences on Writers by 1850 Westward Expansion/Manifest DestinyWestward Expansion/Manifest Destiny Transportation/RailroadsTransportation/Railroads Jacksonian DemocracyJacksonian Democracy Reform Movements: Women,Reform Movements: Women, Prisoners, Mentally Ill, Slaves Self-confidence, optimism in manSelf-confidence, optimism in man Less confidence in society: industrialization, slaveryLess confidence in society: industrialization, slavery

5 Beliefs: Extreme Romantics Man is basically good, uses free willMan is basically good, uses free will Nature is the symbol of the spirit world; where ultimate truth foundNature is the symbol of the spirit world; where ultimate truth found Challenged Puritan beliefs (Bible)Challenged Puritan beliefs (Bible) Influenced by Quakers (man has inner light of God), Deists (nature reveal God)Influenced by Quakers (man has inner light of God), Deists (nature reveal God) Unitarianism: one God rather than trinity; Christ was the most divine human; rejected idea of original sin, determinismUnitarianism: one God rather than trinity; Christ was the most divine human; rejected idea of original sin, determinism

6 Emerson: Father of American Transcendentalism b. 1803 in Boston, 6 generations of ministersb. 1803 in Boston, 6 generations of ministers Father died 1811; family destituteFather died 1811; family destitute Mediocre student at HarvardMediocre student at Harvard Attends seminary 1825; forced to leave for family, health reasonsAttends seminary 1825; forced to leave for family, health reasons Unitarian minister in Boston; left after wife dies; disillusioned with rituals of churchUnitarian minister in Boston; left after wife dies; disillusioned with rituals of church

7 Emerson cont. Traveled in Europe; discovered German Transcendentalism; met with British philosophersTraveled in Europe; discovered German Transcendentalism; met with British philosophers Combined Transcendentalism with self-reliance and free thinkingCombined Transcendentalism with self-reliance and free thinking Remarried and moved toRemarried and moved to Old Manse in Concord, Mass. Gains followers in abolitionGains followers in abolition movement: Alcott, Thoreau

8 Emerson cont. Various ideas of his carried out by othersVarious ideas of his carried out by others Brooks Farm:Brooks Farm: –short-lived utopian experiment in communal living (1841–47) –175-acre farm commune in Boston –Purpose: “to combine the thinker and the worker, to guarantee the greatest mental freedom, and to prepare a society of liberal, cultivated persons, whose relations with each other would permit a more wholesome and simpler life than could be led amid the pressure of competitive institutions.” –Hawthorne (tried but didn’t like) Transcendental Club: an informal gathering of intellectuals of the Boston areaTranscendental Club: an informal gathering of intellectuals of the Boston area The Dial (magazine with Margaret Fuller)The Dial (magazine with Margaret Fuller) Walden (Thoreau)Walden (Thoreau) Hawthorne decides that Emerson’s ideas are incomplete because they don’t account for evilHawthorne decides that Emerson’s ideas are incomplete because they don’t account for evil

9 Emerson: Beliefs Searches for higher truth than revealed by senses; uses intuition and self-reflectionSearches for higher truth than revealed by senses; uses intuition and self-reflection Condemns conformity; allows for contradictionsCondemns conformity; allows for contradictions Oversoul; trusts in own divinity to discover God; God within each of usOversoul; trusts in own divinity to discover God; God within each of us Idealism; God found in nature; “I am a transparent eyeball. I am nothing. I see all.” must study examples in nature to know “ideal” in spiritual world; must transcend this worldIdealism; God found in nature; “I am a transparent eyeball. I am nothing. I see all.” must study examples in nature to know “ideal” in spiritual world; must transcend this world

10 Emerson and Thoreau Emerson = Thinker; Thoreau = actorEmerson = Thinker; Thoreau = actor Emerson lectures about abolition;Emerson lectures about abolition; Thoreau helps runaway slaves Thoreau refuses to pay poll taxThoreau refuses to pay poll tax and went to jail; writes Disobedience to Civil Government; Emerson visits him in jail Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: "He is a singular character — a young man with much of wild original nature remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own. He is ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer- mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, although courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty."


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