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Chapter 3 Romanticism (2)

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1 Chapter 3 Romanticism (2)
New England Transcendentalism Emerson·Thoreau

2 Contents New England Transcendentalism Brief introduction
What is Transcendentalism (A literary term) Major features of Transcendentalism Ralph Waldo Emerson ( ) His ideas His influence on American literature and culture His literary features Simple analysis and appreciation of Self-reliance Henry David Thoreau ( ) Appreciation of his work Walden (Excerpt: Chapter 2)

3 New England Transcendentalism
Brief introduction In 1836 a little book came out which made a tremendous impact on the intellectual life of America. It was entitled Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which pushed American Romanticism into a new phase, the phase of New England Transcendentalism, the summit of American Romanticism.

4 Transcendentalism (A literary term)?
As a moral philosophy, it exalted feeling over reason, individual expression over the restraints of law and custom. It appealed to those who disdained the harsh God of their Puritan ancestors, and it appealed to those who scorned the pale deity of New England Unitarianism. Transcendentalists took their ideas from the romantic literatures of European, from neo-Platonism, from German idealistic philosophy and from the revelation of Oriental mysticism. They spoke for cultural rejuvenation and against the materialism of American society.

5 Major features of Transcendentalism
The Transcendentalists placed emphasis on spirit, or the Oversoul, as the most important thing in the universe. This represented a new way of looking at the world. (a reaction to the 18th century Newtonian concept of the universe; a reaction against people neglecting spiritual welfare) The transcendentalists stressed the importance of individual (depending on oneself for spiritual perfection). This new notion of the individual and his importance represented a new way of looking at man. (a reaction against Calvinist concept; a reaction against the process of dehumanization in the development of capitalism)

6 Transcendentalists offered a fresh perception of nature as symbolic of the Spirit or God. The natural implication was that things in nature tended to become symbolic, and the physical world was a symbol of the spiritual Thus, New England Transcendentalism was a product of a combination of foreign influences and the American Puritan Influence. It was Romanticism on the Puritan soul.

7 Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

8 Ralph Waldo Emerson was responsible for bringing Transcendentalism to New England, and he was recognized throughout his life as the leader of the movement. His ideas Transcendentalist doctrine is just his ideas. He believed above all in individualism, independence of mind and self-reliance.

9 His influence on American literature and culture
He called for an independent culture in both Nature and The American Scholar. The American Scholar has been regarded as “American Declaration of Intellectual Independence.” He advocated that American writers should write about America itself instead of imitating and importing from other lands. I Emerson’s importance in the intellectual history lies in the fact that he embodies a new nation’s desire and struggle to assert its own identity in its formative period.

10 His literary features His poetry is uneven in quality, but always highly individual. In his days, his poems were criticized for their lack of form and polish. His rhythms are harsh and his images are striking, which appeal to many modern readers as artful techniques. His prose style is also highly individual, but often disorganized. His skill in polishing each sentence into a striking thought makes his writing memorable.

11 Simple analysis and appreciation of Self-reliance
Background Self-Reliance, published in 1841, is an essay that urges readers to trust in their own intuition and common sense–rather than automatically following popular opinion and conforming to the will of the majority–when making a decision.

12 Theme Be yourself. Trust your own inner voice.
Emerson repeats that theme throughout the essay in different ways. For example, he urges his readers to retain the outspokenness of a small child who freely speaks his mind–because he has not yet been corrupted by adults who tell him to do otherwise. He also urges readers to avoid envying or imitating others viewed as models of perfection; instead, he says, readers should take pride in their own unique individuality and never be afraid to express their own original ideas. In addition, he says, they should refuse to conform to the ways of the popular culture and its shallow ideals; rather they should live up to their own ideals–even if doing so reaps them criticism and denunciation.

13 Point of View Emerson uses first-, second-, and third-person point of view. In the opening paragraph of the essay, he first writes in the first person, telling the readers about an experience of his. Then, after only three sentences, he switches to second person, as if he is advising a listener sitting across the table from him. Later, in the paragraph, he switches to third person as he presents an exhortation about humankind in general. In the following excerpt, Emerson uses all three points of view–first person, second person, and third person. (Read Selected Reading P20)

14 Style Among the most notable characteristics of Emerson’s writing style are these: Thorough development of his thesis through examples, repetition, and reinforcement; Coinage of memorable statements of principle, or aphorisms; Frequent use of figurative language to make a point, such as “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man” (metaphor) and “They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth” (simile).

15 Emerson's Moral Philosophy as an Expression of Transcendentalism
Emerson believed every human being has inborn knowledge that enables him to recognize and understand moral truth without benefit of knowledge obtained through the physical senses. Using this inborn knowledge, a gift of God, an individual can make a moral decision without relying on information gained through everyday living, education, and experimentation. One may liken this inborn knowledge to conscience or intuition.

16 Emerson and others who believed that this inborn knowledge served as a moral guiding force were known as transcendentalists–that is, they believed that this inner knowledge was a higher, transcendent form of knowledge than that which came through the senses. Because Emerson and his fellow transcendentalists trusted their own inner light as a moral guiding force, they were possessed of a fierce spirit of self-reliance. They were individualists; they liked to make decisions for themselves.

17 If the government adopted a policy or a law that offended their consciences, they generally reacted strongly. Transcendentalism, as Emerson’s moral philosophy was called, did not originate with him or his fellow transcendentalists in New England but with the German philosopher Emanuel Kant. He used the German word for transcendental to refer to intuitive or innate knowledge–knowledge which is a priori rather than a posteriori.

18 Summary A man should believe in himself. When he has an original thought, he should embrace it and make it known to others rather than reject it simply because it is his own and therefore unworthy. It is better to exercise the power within yourself than to envy and imitate others. When you are young, you are bold and independent; you assert yourself. You listen to the voice within and express yourself without bias and fear. But as you grow older, you surrender your liberty to society. You want to be like others, act like others. And so you suppress yourself.

19 Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
He was a close follower of Emerson .He was the man who put into practice many of Emerson’s theories.

20 Appreciation of his work Walden (Excerpt: Chapter 2)
Editons and Walden Pond

21 Synopsis of Chapter 2 In the second chapter, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," talks about how he once considered buying the Hollowell farm for himself but the purchase fell through. Instead, he created a new existence for himself at Walden, where he found joy and fulfillment in nature, truly awakening in his mornings there, while most of society remains perpetually asleep, living mean lives when the possibility of a much better life is possible. The key to achieving such a life, he says, is simplicity.

22 Analysis of this chapter
Thoreau reaches deep into the Transcendentalist philosophy in this chapter. In making such bold pronouncements, he is wise to shy from being deadly serious. He emphasizes he is not writing "an ode to dejection" but instead crowing like a rooster to wake his neighbors up. In doing so, and in criticizing their accepted and unquestioned ways of living, he employees a dry humor, characterized by understatement, as when he says, "nothing new ever does happen in foreign parts, a French revolution not excepted."

23 The juxtaposition presented in the title of the chapter, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," provides an excellent clue as to Thoreau's philosophy. For him, the physical circumstances of life an intrinsically and inescapably tied to a person's spiritual life. The appearance of his cabin, its size and furniture, even its placement on the shore of the pond all contribute to his spiritual awakening. Because of this connection between one's physical and spiritual life, Thoreau's retreat to the shore of Walden Pond is necessary; and it is because of this that he urges his townsmen to likewise reconsider their physical circumstances.

24 Themes of this chapter The theme of rebirth
Thoreau's emphasis on the dawn in this chapter continues the theme of rebirth established in the first chapter. In that chapter, he described a snake, left "torpid" by the cold of the winter and only gradually awakening as the weather thawed. That snake was a symbol for the "sleeping" men who are likewise unaware of their surroundings and immobile in combating the chains of routine and tradition.

25 It is noteworthy that Thoreau begins building his house, the physical counterpart to his spiritual awakening, in the winter, and does not move into until summer, when nature and his spiritual self is in full life. Both here and in the first chapter, Thoreau appeals to Aurora, goddess of the dawn. The dawning of the day comes to be a metaphor for the dawning of spiritual enlightenment and self-knowledge.

26 Sight Sight is also another theme in this chapter. Thoreau compares the views from the lakeside hill and from the front of his cabin. From the hill, he can see all the way to the mountains in the northwest. From his cabin, his only physical vista is a pasture but with his imagination, he can see to the furthest reaches of history and the universe. Thus, it is important to emphasize that Thoreau's "reality" is not a historical or factual concept. The illusions of which he speaks are not creations of his imagination. Rather, he considers things like religion and philosophy to be illusory because they limit and distort a person's immediate experience of himself in the world.

27 Sleep The theme of sleep plays an important role here. Thoreau elevates the word sleeper to a symbol, comparing men who labor without thinking to the pieces of iron that gird a railroad. This use of sleep and awakeness as a spiritual metaphor has a long history, especially in the writings of New England. The Great Awakening, of course, was the name given to the Puritan religious resurgence of the late seventeenth century. Thoreau here attempts to rewrite and undo that awakening, to free New Englanders from the shackles of thought forged by traditional religion and to awaken them to a more spiritually fulfilling reality.

28 Assignment Define the term: Transcendentalism
Tell the major features of Transcendentalism. Who is the leader of transcendentalism? State his ideas about it. What is the theme of Self-reliance? Why is the point of view in it special? Describe the major characteristics of Emerson’s writing style. In the second chapter of Walden by Henry David Thoreau, There are several themes reflected. What are they? Thoreau appeals to Aurora in both the first and second chapters in Walden. This is just a figure of speech, what is it? Who is Aurora? What does this figure of speech mean?

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