US Lit – Transcendentalism – American Literature – Literary Elements (1840-1860)

Historical Context
American Romantiscism has it own offshoot in the transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. During Romanticism, a belief in transcendentalism occurred.

-Finding philosophical support in the writing of Immanuel Kant, transcendental thinking and writers of Concord Massachusetts, believed in a single God that manifests in all parts of the universe.

Important Authors: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

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Same time as British Romance (1798-1870) and part of Victorian (1837-1901) and Realism (1820-1920). Also Existentialism (1820-today)

Transcendentalism – American Literature – Literary Elements
(1840-1860)
– Offshoot of American Romanticism –
-Transcendentalists advocated self reliance and individualism over authority and conformity to tradition.
-Believed that institutions and organizations were responsible for corrupting the inherent goodness of people.
-In their writing, transcendentalists commonly reflected on nature as a unified divine spirit common to all people and community.
-Individualism, self reliance, spiritual growth,. Live in nature to attain this.
-Nature (1836) by Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Emmerson and Thoreau

Transcendentalism
(1840-1860)
Authors
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
What is the difference between Romanticism and Transcendentalists
Transcendentalists ultimately wanted to effect change, both personally and globally.

Romanticism was too much preoccupied with the ego and aesthetics to work for change in the real world.

This newly enlightened, transcendent individual could go into the world and work to make it a better place.

The Transcendental Movement was nothing if not idealist.

Transcendentalism 5 traits
Self reliance
Simplistic living
Spirituality
Importance of nature
Non conformity
*RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-82)
-wrote about transcending the complexities of life.
-His elegantly-crafted essays and war poetry still validate important universal truths
– A mastery of oratory, he is best known for his addresses: “The American Scholar'”
-wrote about hard work, the intellectual spirit of Americans, and the importance of learning about nature first hand.
-Encouraged readers to trust themselves and not the opinions of others.
– The spiritual descendent of Jonathan Edwards (conscious should compel life)
-Left the church for personal reasons
-Emerson’s elegantly-crafted essay and war poetry still validate several important universal truths.
– Also wrote Nature (1836) his first and one of his best books/centerpiece on transcendentalism.
-Wrote two volumes of poetry: Poems (1847), Representative Men, The Conduct of Life (1860) and English Traits (1865)
-Wrote Nature (1836)
-He believed that the poem should present concrete images that stand as symbols… in this he influenced Whitman, Dickinson, and modernist poetry in general
*HENRY DAVID THOREAU
-(1817-62)
-Wanted to get to the marrow of life, immersed himself in nature at Walden Pond and wrote an inspiring autobiographical account of this sojourn titled On Walden Pond.
-He also wrote passionately about his objections to the interference of government imposed on the individual in “On the Duty of Disobedience”
-He was the second of the greatest transcendentalists
-He lived a hermetic life on Walden Pond to test his transcendental philosophy of individualism, self-reliance, and spiritual growth
*”THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR”
– A mastery of oratory, Ralph Waldo Emerson is best known for this address
– An to Thoreau’s Harvard graduating class
-Emerson defined the qualities of hard work and intellectual spirit required of Americans in their growing nation.
*”ON WALDEN POND”
– Henry David Thoreau
-1854
-Structured on the 4 seasons
*”ON THE DUTY OF DISOBEDIENCE”
– 1849
Henry David Thoreau
-He wrote passionately regarding his objections to the interference of government imposed on the individual
-This essay inspired Ghandi and MLK
*NATURE
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
-Emerson asks “Of what use is nature?”
*Self Reliance
Essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841)
Emmerson says “Trust your emotion/intuition. … be a non conformist”