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  • 1. Trancendentalism [trancendere Lat., = to overpass] American literary and philosophical movement that flourished in New England (chiefly in Concord, Massachusetts) from about 1836 to 1860. It originated among a small group of intellectuals who were reacting against the strong orthodoxy of Protestant religion developing instead their own faith centering on the divinity of humanity and the natural world. Transcendentalism took some of its basic concepts from romantic German philosophy, notably that of Immanuel Kant, 1724–1804. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are the most prominent figures of the movement.
  • 2. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
  • 3. A Short Biography • Born in Concord, Massachusetts, center of the Trancendentalist movement • Studied rhetoric, philosophy and mathematics at Harvard (1833 – 1837) • Resigned from teaching – did not want to inflict corporal punishment. • 1845 – 1847 – lived by Walden Pond • Various jobs, travels and writing • Died from tuberculosis at 44
  • 4. Walden • On July 4, 1845, Thoreau moved into woods owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson • Thoreau maintains that the date was “by accident”
  • 5. Thoreau’s Journal • Thoreau kept a journal while he lived in the woods; this journal became the basis of Walden • After two years, two months, and two days, Thoreau left the woods, returning to care for Emerson’s household
  • 6. Approaches to Walden • A book about nature--birds, plants, and animals – The book is about the life available to people living close to nature, living in harmony with nature • A satire on contemporary civilization – Thoreau laughs at what the common man takes seriously and vice-versa
  • 7. • "I went to 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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."
  • 8. A Lifestyle Experiment • “What happens if one withdraws from routine to see what life is about?” • Habit<------------------------->Deliberation • Inauthentic<----------------------->Authentic • Death<----------------------------->Life • “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” • Thoreau’s purpose is ultimately philosophical and religious
  • 9. Influence of “Civil Disobedience” (1849) • Thoreau’s writing about the incident has been of lasting social and political importance • In 1906, Mahatma Gandhi, in his African exile, read it and made it a major document in his struggle for Indian independence • In the United States, civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. tested his tactics of Civil Disobedience
  • 10. Thoreau’s Lasting Influence • Civil Disobedience--Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. • 1960’s and 1970’s countercultural concerns for experiments in living • The general American concern for ecological sanity