Presentation on theme: "American Individualism and Utopian Attempts American Studies Wohlgy."— Presentation transcript:
American Individualism and Utopian Attempts American Studies Wohlgy
TODAY…. Think about how new ideas that emerge during this era contribute to American culture and values today What was going on in America between 1800-1850?
American Individualism Alexis de Tocqueville said Americans lived “no longer attached to each other by any tie of caste, class, association, or family.” As Americans, we live as individuals, more solitary than our European ancestors, and the only thing that unites us are our ideas (democracy, liberty, equality, etc.)
Transcendentalism An intellectual movement rooted in the religious soil of New England- writers and lecturers Had Puritan roots but heavily influenced by European Romanticism and was rather mystical in nature Felt that an ideal, deeper reality was found by transcending reason
Transcendentalism Transcendentalists used public lectures to spread their ideas These lecture circuits were called LYCEUMS Emerson for example, between 1833 and 1860 gave 1500 lectures! Message of the transcendentalist: inner change and self-realization Mostly a middle-upper class movement (educated folks)
Ralph Waldo Emerson Saw people as being trapped in inherited customs and institutions For Emerson, an individual needed to REMAKE oneself- discover who he/she is in accordance with nature
Ralph Waldo Emerson This insight would lead a person into a mystical private union with the “Universal Being” Such a discovery would occur most likely in solitude in nature
Ralph Waldo Emerson His essays and lectures conveyed the message that God and Nature were united Criticized new industrial society- belief that consumerism, constant work, and drive for profit would rain the country of it’s spiritual energy He celebrated individuals who rejected social restraints but were also socially responsible and self-disciplined
Emerson’s Literary Influence Emerson urged writers to celebrate democracy and individual freedom and get inspiration from the simple and natural Henry David Thoreau will do just that…
Henry David Thoreau A New England Intellectual 1845 depressed by his father’s death, Thoreau retreats to a cabin at the edge of Walden Pond near Concord, Mass for two years
Henry David Thoreau 1854 he publishes Walden which details his spiritual search for meaning beyond the artificial “civilized” life Self-reliance “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Thoreau Quotes… “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail." I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
So what is Thoreau suggesting? Social Non-conformity Self-reliance Civil Disobedience (against unjust laws- remember, Thoreau refused to pay his taxes because the US was at war with Mexico in 1848- spent a night in jail because of it)
Margaret Fuller Born in Boston to a wealthy family- spoke 6 languages Very educated Explored possibilities for women’s freedom Led groups of intellectual women
Margaret Fuller “Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.” Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, 1845 Margaret Fuller
Walt Whitman Often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.
Walt Whitman The individual had a divine spark Nothing was impossible for an individual who could break free from tradition, law, and other social restraints and discover an “original relation with nature.”
Walt Whitman Quotes “Sex contains all, bodies, souls, Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations, All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth, All the governments, judges, gods.” “I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man, And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.”
Darker Visions- Nathaniel Hawthorne Herman Melville Addressed the opposition between individual transcendence and the necessity for social order, discipline, and responsibility. Ego=downfall
Brook Farm Experiment Brook Farm was a transcendentalist Utopian experiment that was put into practice by transcendentalist and former Unitarian minister George Ripley in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Brook Farm Experiment To escape the constraints of life transcendentalists created ideal communities Utopia: Utopia is a name for an ideal community, possessing a seemingly perfect socio-politico-legal system. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempted to create an ideal society, and fictional societies portrayed in literature.
Brook Farm Experiment They hoped that these planned societies would allow members to realize their spiritual and moral potential Philosophy: once freed from tension and demands of a competitive, urban society, members could develop themselves fully
Communalism Just like Brook Farm, thousands of Americans joined other communal settlements (rural NE and Midwest) These rural utopias were also symbols of social protest Socialist in nature- communal ownership or property- experimentation with marriage and family life/gender roles
Shakers Believed that everybody could find God within him or herself, (individualism) rather than through clergy or rituals The Shakers tended to be more emotional and demonstrative in their worship. Shakers also believed that their lives should be dedicated to pursuing perfection and continuously confessing their sins and attempting to stop sinning
Shakers The Shakers built 19 communal settlements that attracted some 200,000 converts over the next century. Strict believers in celibacy, Shakers maintained their numbers through conversion and adoption of orphans. Turnover was very high; the group reached maximum size of about 6,000 full members in 1840communalcelibacy Visions Prophecy Trances
Fourierist Movement Charles Fourier- French by birth, embraced ideas of Utopian Socialism Against laissez-faire capitalism, industrialization, and trade Anti-Semite
Fourierism Workers would be recompensed for their labors according to their contribution. Fourier saw such cooperation occurring in communities he called phalanxes. (Socialism) Buildings were four level apartment complexes where the richest had the uppermost apartments and the poorest enjoyed a ground floor residence. Wealth was determined by one's job; jobs were assigned based on the interests and desires of the individual.
Fourier on Women Fourier was also a big supporter of women's rights in a time period where influences like Jean-Jacques Rousseau were prevalent. Fourier believed that all important jobs should be open to women on the basis of skill and aptitude rather than closed on account of gender. He spoke of women as individuals, not as half the human couple. Fourier saw that “traditional” marriage could potentially hurt woman's rights as human beings and thus never married Jean-Jacques Rousseaumarriage
Fourier on Children Fourier's concern was to liberate every human individual, man, woman, and child, in two senses: Education and the liberation of human passion Felt that parents saw children as “idlers” and ought to give kids a “childhood” Phalanxes were established all over America (Utopia, Ohio)
John Humphrey Noyes and the Oneida Community Noyes argued that Fourier communities failed because they lacked morality/faith Embraced Perfectionism (sin free!) Marriage= major hindrance to peace/sin free life Challenged traditional sexual and gender roles Complex marriages
Oneida Community Children raised communally to give most women time for self-development Women=full participants in community= complete equality Women cut hair short and wore pants Egalitarianism- to make everyone EQUAL (men and women)
Oneida Community Believed marriage and child rearing= kept women down To control birth rate… Rejection of monogamy caused lots of criticism (also laws regarding adultery)
Oneida Steel and Silver Successful community- made steel animal traps and eventually silverware (joint- stock company)
Joseph Smith and Mormonism Mormonism began with Joseph Smith Jr. who was born on Dec. 23, 1805, in Vermont.
History of Mormonism Joseph Smith Jr. stated that he was disturbed by all the different denominations of Christianity and wondered which was true. In 1820, when he was 14, he went into the woods to pray concerning this and allegedly God the Father and Jesus appeared to him and told him not to join any of the denominational churches.
History of Mormonism Three years later, on Sept. 21, 1823, when he was 17 years old, an angel called Moroni, who was supposed to be the son of Mormon, the leader of the people called the Nephites who had lived in the Americas, appeared to him and told him that he had been chosen to translate the book of Mormon which was compiled by Moroni's father around the 4th century. The book was written on golden plates hidden near where Joseph was then living in Palmyra, New York. Joseph Smith said that on Sept. 22, 1827 he received the plates and the angel Moroni instructed him to begin the translation process. The translation was finally published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon.
History of Mormonism After the publication of the Book of Mormon, Mormonism began to grow. Because their religion was so deviant from Christianity, i.e., plurality of gods, polygamy (Joseph is said to have had 27 wives), etc., persecution soon forced them to move from New York to Ohio, then to Missouri, and finally to Nauvoo, Illinois. They ended up in Salt Lake and founded Salt Lake City
All in all…. These alternative communities were important because they questioned traditional customs and challenged the emerging class divisions and sexual norms in the new capitalist society They were “countercultural blueprints for a more egalitarian society.”
Just to Review Name of Settlement PhilosophySocial StructureLegal SystemEconomic System ShakersChristian perfectionism Men and women equal and sexless Religion- celibacy Furniture Fourier Phalanxes Utopian Socialism Rich/poor but communal Social MoresMixed OneidasMarriage= complex, Perfection can be achieved Polygamy Complex Marriage Communal living Egalitarian Religion- perfectionism Steel traps and silverware MormonsBelief that theirs is the true Christianity PolygamyReligionMixed Brook Farm Transcendentalism egalitarianSocial MoresFarming
Your Assignment You will work either communally (with a partner or partners) or individually to create your own utopia ! You must come up with a name for your utopia, write a philosophical statement, describe the economy (what will people do for a living?), legal system (how do you keep people in line?), gender roles, who is desirable in your utopia/who isn’t, etc. Come up with an emblem/symbol for your utopia and create a poster advertising your utopia for prospective settlers! Taking into consideration your knowledge of Romantic art, you will want to create emulate Romantic artists when making your poster ad! (Soft hues, etc.)