American
Transcendentalism

“ It was a high counsel that I once heard
given to a young person, always do what
you are afra...
What does
“transcendentalism” mean?
• There is an ideal spiritual state which
“transcends” the physical and empirical.
• A...
Transcendentalism
• Relationship between man
and nature. Heightened
awareness of this
relationship would cause a
“reformat...
Transcendentalism
• A literary movement that established a
clear “American voice”.
• Emerson first expressed his philosoph...
5
6
Where did it come from?
• Ralph Waldo Emerson gave German
philosopher Immanuel Kant credit for
popularizing the term
“tran...
What did Transcendentalists
believe?
The intuitive faculty, instead of the
rational or sensical, became the
means for a co...
Basic Premise #1
An individual is the spiritual
center of the universe, and
in an individual can be found
the clue to natu...
Basic Premise #2
The structure of the
universe literally
duplicates the
structure of the
individual self—all
knowledge, th...
Basic Premise #3
Transcendentalists
accepted the
concept of nature as
a living mystery, full
of signs; nature is
symbolic.
Basic Premise #4
The belief that individual virtue and
happiness depend upon self-realization
—this depends upon the recon...
Transcendentalism
• Believed in living close to
nature/importance of nature. Nature is
the source of truth and inspiration...
Ralph Waldo Emerson
•
•
•
•

1803-1882
Unitarian minister
Poet and essayist
Founded the
Transcendental Club
• Popular lect...
“Self-reliance” -Emerson
• “What I must do is all that concerns me,
not what people think…”
• “…to be great is to be misun...
Henry David Thoreau
• 1817-1862
• Schoolteacher, essayist,
poet
• Most famous for Walden
and Civil Disobedience
• Influenc...
“Nature”
• Thoreau began “essential” living
• Built a cabin on land owned to Emerson in
Concord, Mass. near Walden Pond
• ...
“I went into the woods
because I wished to live
deliberately, to front only
the essential facts of life
and see if I could...
“Still we live meanly like ants.”
“Our life is frittered away by detail.”
“Why should we live with such hurry and waste of...
Walden
Individuality
• The surface of the earth is soft and impressible
by the feet of men; and so with the paths which
th...
• “If a man does not keep pace with his
companions, perhaps it is because he
hears a different drummer. Let him step
to th...
“Civil Disobedience”

• Thoreau’s essay urging passive, nonviolent resistance to governmental policies
to which an individ...
Amos Bronson Alcott
• 1799-1888
• Teacher and writer
• Founder of Temple
School and Fruitlands
• Introduced art, music,
P....
Margaret Fuller
• 1810-1850
• Journalist, critic, women’s
rights activist
• First editor of The Dial, a
transcendental jou...
Ellery Channing
• 1818-1901
• Poet and especially
close friend of
Thoreau
• Published the first
biography of Thoreau
in 18...
Resources
• American Transcendental Web:
http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/index.html

• American Transcendental...
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Transcendentalism

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Transcendentalism

  1. 1. American Transcendentalism “ It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, always do what you are afraid to do.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson 1
  2. 2. What does “transcendentalism” mean? • There is an ideal spiritual state which “transcends” the physical and empirical. • A loose collection of eclectic ideas about literature, philosophy, religion, social reform, and the general state of American culture. • Transcendentalism had different meanings for each person involved in the movement.
  3. 3. Transcendentalism • Relationship between man and nature. Heightened awareness of this relationship would cause a “reformation” of society away from materialism and corruption. 3 3
  4. 4. Transcendentalism • A literary movement that established a clear “American voice”. • Emerson first expressed his philosophy in his essay “Nature”. • A belief in a higher reality than that achieved by human reasoning. • Suggests that every individual is capable of discovering this higher truth through intuition. 4
  5. 5. 5
  6. 6. 6
  7. 7. Where did it come from? • Ralph Waldo Emerson gave German philosopher Immanuel Kant credit for popularizing the term “transcendentalism.” • It began as a reform movement in the Unitarian church. • It is not a religion—more accurately, it is a philosophy or form of spirituality. • It centered around Boston and Concord, MA. in the mid-1800’s.
  8. 8. What did Transcendentalists believe? The intuitive faculty, instead of the rational or sensical, became the means for a conscious union of the individual psyche (known in Sanskrit as Atman) with the world psyche also known as the Oversoul, life-force, prime mover and God (known in Sanskrit as Brahma).
  9. 9. Basic Premise #1 An individual is the spiritual center of the universe, and in an individual can be found the clue to nature, history and, ultimately, the cosmos itself. It is not a rejection of the existence of God, but a preference to explain an individual and the world in terms of an individual.
  10. 10. Basic Premise #2 The structure of the universe literally duplicates the structure of the individual self—all knowledge, therefore, begins with selfknowledge. This is similar to Aristotle's dictum "know thyself."
  11. 11. Basic Premise #3 Transcendentalists accepted the concept of nature as a living mystery, full of signs; nature is symbolic.
  12. 12. Basic Premise #4 The belief that individual virtue and happiness depend upon self-realization —this depends upon the reconciliation of two universal psychological tendencies: 1. The desire to embrace the whole world— to know and become one with the world. 2. The desire to withdraw, remain unique and separate—an egotistical existence.
  13. 13. Transcendentalism • Believed in living close to nature/importance of nature. Nature is the source of truth and inspiration. • Taught the dignity of manual labor • Advocated self-trust/ confidence • Valued individuality/non-conformity/free thought • Advocated self-reliance/ simplicity 13
  14. 14. Ralph Waldo Emerson • • • • 1803-1882 Unitarian minister Poet and essayist Founded the Transcendental Club • Popular lecturer • Banned from Harvard for 40 years following his Divinity School address • Supporter of abolitionism
  15. 15. “Self-reliance” -Emerson • “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think…” • “…to be great is to be misunderstood” 15
  16. 16. Henry David Thoreau • 1817-1862 • Schoolteacher, essayist, poet • Most famous for Walden and Civil Disobedience • Influenced environmental movement • Supporter of abolitionism
  17. 17. “Nature” • Thoreau began “essential” living • Built a cabin on land owned to Emerson in Concord, Mass. near Walden Pond • Lived alone there • for two years studying • nature and seeking • truth within himself 17
  18. 18. “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 has to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 18
  19. 19. “Still we live meanly like ants.” “Our life is frittered away by detail.” “Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?” “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. I say, let your affairs be as two or three and not a hundred or a thousand.” 19
  20. 20. Walden Individuality • The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! 20
  21. 21. • “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.” 21
  22. 22. “Civil Disobedience” • Thoreau’s essay urging passive, nonviolent resistance to governmental policies to which an individual is morally opposed. • Influenced individuals such a Ghandi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Cesar Chavez 22
  23. 23. Amos Bronson Alcott • 1799-1888 • Teacher and writer • Founder of Temple School and Fruitlands • Introduced art, music, P.E., nature study, and field trips; banished corporal punishment • Father of novelist Louisa May Alcott
  24. 24. Margaret Fuller • 1810-1850 • Journalist, critic, women’s rights activist • First editor of The Dial, a transcendental journal • First female journalist to work on a major newspaper—The New York Tribune • Taught at Alcott’s Temple School
  25. 25. Ellery Channing • 1818-1901 • Poet and especially close friend of Thoreau • Published the first biography of Thoreau in 1873—Thoreau, The Poet-Naturalist
  26. 26. Resources • American Transcendental Web: http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/index.html • American Transcendentalism: http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/amtrans.htm • PAL: Chapter Four http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap4/4intro.html
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