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Chapter 4 New England Transcendentalism Emerson Thoreau

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I. Historical Background II. New England Transcendentalism III. Ralph Waldo Emerson IV. Henry David Thoreau continue exit exit continue I. Historical Background 1. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Chapter 4 New England Transcendentalism Emerson Thoreau


1
Chapter 4 New England Transcendentalism
Emerson Thoreau
I. Historical Background
II. New England Transcendentalism
III. Ralph Waldo Emerson
IV. Henry David Thoreau
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I. Historical Background 1. The Mexican-American
War (1846-1848) 2. The westward expansion
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3
  • II. New England Transcendentalism
  • 1. General introduction to Transcendentalism
  • American transcendentalism was an important
  • movement in philosophy and literature that
    flourished
  • during the early to middle years of the
    nineteenth
  • century (about 1836-1860).
  • It began as a reform movement in the Unitarian
    church.
  • For the transcendentalists, the soul of each
    individual is
  • identical with the soul of the world and
    contains what
  • the world contains.

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2. The factors that influenced New England
Transcendentalism New England
Transcendentalism was the Product of a
combination of foreign influences and the
American Puritan tradition a. Foreign
influences concepts of Schelling, Fichte, Kant
Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle French
eclecticism and Oriental mysticism b. American
Puritanism
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  • 3. Major Concepts
  • It stressed the power of intuition, believing
    that
  • people could learn things both from the
    outside world by means of the five senses and
    from the inner world by intuition. But the things
    they learned from within were truer than the
    things they learned from without, and transcended
    them. It held that everyone had access to a
    source of knowledge that transcended the everyday
    experiences of sensation and reflection.
    Intuition was inner light within.
  • b. It took nature as symbolic of spirit of God.
    All things in nature were symbols of the
    spiritual, of Gods presence. Nature was alive,
    filled with Gods overwhelming presence.
    Everything in the universe was viewed as an
    expression of the divine spirit.

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  • c. It emphasized the significance of the
  • individual and believed that the individual
  • was the most important element in society
  • and that the ideal kind of individual was
  • self-reliant and unselfish.
  • d. Emerson envisioned religion as an
  • emotional communication between an
  • individual soul and the universal Oversoul.
  • The Oversoul as called by Emerson was an
  • all-pervading unitary spiritual power of
  • goodness, omnipresent and omnipotent, from
  • which all things came and of which everyone
  • was a part.
  • Significance New England Transcendentalism
  • is the summit of American Romanticism.
  • 5. Representatives Emerson, Thoreau

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III. Ralph Waldo Emerson 1. Life a. born in a
clergymans family in New England b. graduated
from Harvard c. became a Unitarian minister to
the Second Church of Boston, but not for
long. d. Finding the rationality of Unitarianism
intolerable, he decided to leave his job as
minister. e. went to Europe, and met Coleridge,
Carlyle and Wordsworth and made friends
with them, and brought back the influence
of European Romanticism. f. founded a
Transcendentalists' Club and published a
journal g. became the most eloquent spokesman of
Transcendentalism
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2. Works a. Essays??? b. Nature???(a book
which declared the birth of
Transcendentalism) c. The American
Scholar?????(Americans Declaration of
Intellectual Independence) d. Divinity, The
Oversoul??? e. Self-reliance??? f. The
Transcendentalist?????
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  • 3. Emersons aesthetics
  • poets should function as preachers who gave
  • directions to the mass.
  • b. True poetry and true art should ennoble and
    serve as a moral purification and a passage
    toward organic unity and higher reality.
  • c. Emerson places emphasis on ideas, symbols and
    imaginative words.
  • d. As to theme, Emerson called upon American
    authors to celebrate America and the life today.
  • e. Emersons aesthetics brought about a
    revolution in American literature in general and
    in American poetry in particular. It marked the
    birth of true American poetry and true America
    poets such as Whitman and Dickinson

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4. Limitations a. Emerson had no sense of evil
and too optimistic about human nature and
the society. Somebody once called this kind
of optimism "Transcendental folly". b. His
reputation fell in the 20th century
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IV. Henry David Thoreau 1. Life a. His father
was an successful storekeeper b. went to Harvard,
but did not like the life of the college
much. On graduation he stayed with his family,
first helping his father to make pencils and
then, running a private school. c. made
friends with Emerson, used his library and
embraced his ideas. d. In 1845, with the
permission of Emerson, he went to build a
cabin on a piece of Emersons property on Walden
Pond, and moved on July4 to live there in a
very simple manner for a little over two
years. There on the Pond, he tried to be
self-sufficient in every thing. e. detained for a
night in jail for refusing to pay a poll-tax of
2.00 to a government he thought unjust. In
fact, he was soon set free after his aunt
paid the sum for him. It inspired him to
write his famous essay Civil Disobedience,
which influenced people such as Mahatma
Gandhi.
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2. Works a. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack
Rivers and Walden / Walden ???? b. Civil
Disobedience ???????It influenced people such
as Mahatma Gandhi.
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  • 3. Walden
  • The book described the authors extremely simple
  • life and regeneration he experienced when he
    lived near the Walden pond.
  • b. This is a book on self-culture and human
    perfectibility
  • c. In the book Thoreau criticized the modern
    civilization and told people to leave the life of
    hurry and bustle and to sink themselves in
    nature.
  • d. Spiritual richness is real wealth.
  • e. The structural framework of the book is within
    a single year, and progresses through spring,
    summer and autumn to winter.

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4. Evaluation Comparing with Emerson who was a
great thinker, Thoreau was a great
experimentalist who put Emerson's
Transcendental doctrines into practice in
the actual life.
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