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UNIT IV: TRANSCENDENTALISM

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Title: UNIT IV: TRANSCENDENTALISM


1
UNIT IV TRANSCENDENTALISM
  • Americas First Identity Crisis
  • 1840 - 1870

2
How it Fits
  • Romanticism 1800-1840

Literary Nationalism
Transcendentalism 1840-1870
Realism 1870-1900
3
Literary Nationalism (1800 - 1840)
  • Established national identity
  • Heroes (e.g., Natty Bumpo)
  • Anti-heroes (e.g., Tom Walker)
  • Local color (regional dialect, setting)
  • National identity rooted in
  • B. Franklins Virtues and the American Dream
  • Puritanism Work Ethic and City Upon a Hill
  • Democracy

4
Literary Nationalism (1800 - 1840)
  • Influenced by European Romanticism
  • Truth in absolutes
  • Heroes Idealized impossibly perfect
    extraordinary people in extraordinary situations
  • Anti-Heroes/Enemies pure evil
  • Morality, thus, is absolute
  • All good or all evil no gray area
  • Emphasis
  • Extraordinary people in extraordinary situations
  • Often stresses the past
  • Glorifies nature its appearance and grandeur

5
Literary Nationalism (1800 - 1840)
  • 1800 - 1840 Americas obedient schoolboy years

6
Historical Context
  • Nothing seemed to deter Americas growth in the
    nineteenth century.
  • Geographically America was pushing frontiers to
    the Pacific
  • Politically it was finding its identity as a
    democratic government divided into three branches
  • Socially it was in a fervent state of
    development, constantly creating and developing
    new communities with its ever-expanding
    boundaries.

7
Historical Context, cont.
  • Such growth and advancement imbued Americans with
    a collective sense of optimism and belief in
    progress.
  • Americans knew they had a special place in
    history
  • That feeling pervaded everything they thought,
    did, or believed.

8
Historical Context
  • Policies adopted in this period placed emphasis
    on energy, enterprise and personal achievement.
  • Laissez-faire (leave it alone) capitalism
    reigned. (recall reference to speculation in Tom
    Walker unregulated trade). America as a giant
    workshop.
  • Emphasis on business, growing personal wealth and
    getting ahead became the underpinning for what
    most American believed was the ideal democratic
    society.

9
Historical Context, cont
  • Cities grew in size
  • Populations scattered and the number of states
    increased
  • Growth and expansion gave the nation a firm
    belief in its own progress
  • Political climate that elevated self-made men
    like Andrew Jackson instilled the populace with
    faith in the power of the individual to rise
    above his or her own circumstances and fashion
    his or her own place in the world.
  • Gave a collective sense of rising above, both on
    a cultural and individual level, created fertile
    ground for an optimistic, if not idealistic,
    American philosophy to take hold

10
In the 1840s, America enters its teenage years
  • and the country experiences its first identity
    crisis!
  • But
  • Begins to define a clear American voice

11
Enter the Transcendentalists! (Americas
adolescence)
Americas Identity Crisis
12
TRANSCENDENTALISM Origins
  • Major national issues came together causing
    Americas identity crisis
  • Slavery
  • Westward expansion
  • America half free states / half slave
  • Q Would new states be slave or free?
  • Exacerbating the issue
  • Mexican War 1846-1848 would new territory also
    be free or a slave territory?

13
Forerunners
  • Puritanism
  • belief in God as a powerful force
  • belief that each individual can experience God
    first-hand
  • Colonialism
  • Self-empowerment
  • Equality
  • Romanticism
  • placed central importance on emotions and the
    individual
  • emphasized intuition and inner perception of
    truth that differs from reason
  • emphasized natures beauty, strangeness, and
    mystery
  • emphasized individual expression and artistic
    freedom

14
TRANSCENDENTALISM Origins
  • Transcendentalism was a literary movement that
    flourished during the middle 19th Century (1836
    1860).
  • It began as a rebellion against traditionally
    held beliefs by the Church that God superseded
    the individual.
  • 1840-50 movement of writers began to seriously
    challenge American values
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Herman Melville

15
Transcendentalism Origins
  • Group focuses on reform
  • Ties with Unitarian Church (rejection of Trinity)
    though not a religion.
  • Centered around Boston and Concord, MA. in the
    mid-1800s (a group of intellectuals and
    academics)
  • Still influenced by European ideas and Eastern
    philosophies
  • Departure from ROMANTICISM (focus on the
    extraordinary, uncommon, intangible)
  • Embracing of REALISM (focus on the ordinary,
    common, tangible)

16
Transcendental Beliefs Beliefs
  • 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.
  • Basic Premise 2
  • The structure of the universe literally
    duplicates the structure of the individual
    selfall knowledge, therefore, begins with
    self-knowledge. This is similar to Aristotle's
    dictum "know thyself."

17
Transcendental Beliefs Beliefs
  • 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-realizationthis depends upon
    the reconciliation of two universal psychological
    tendencies
  • The desire to embrace the whole worldto know and
    become one with the world.
  • The desire to withdraw, remain unique and
    separatean egotistical existence.

18
So.
  • Nature
  • Individualism
  • Moral Enthusiasm
  • Feelings
  • Is Divine
  • Holds the truths of life
  • Holds transcendence for man when he can
    communicate and be one with nature
  • Is innocence and an escape from the evils of
    society
  • Transcendentalists believed individuals could
    transcend to a higher being of existence in
    nature.
  • Belief that the transcendent (or spiritual)
    reality, rather than the material world, is the
    ultimate reality
  • Rejection of societys beliefs and free thought
  • An individual places inner truth above all else
  • Fulfillment comes from knowing oneself, not from
    materialism and not through adhering to
    institutions like education, the government, the
    church, even the family.
  • Advocates self trust and confidence (truth is
    within us)
  • Experience is valued over scholarship.
  • God is located in the soul of each individual.
    Finding ones own spirituality will lead one to
    truth
  • Simple life (manual labor)
  • This truth of existence combines nature, the
    universe and man (oversoul) and is available to
    everyone
  • Considered the Conscience of the Nation
  • Challenged individuals to question authority
  • Encouraged non-conformity
  • morality gt legality
  • Anti- Aristocracy
  • Anti-Slavery
  • Pro-Womens Rights
  • Quest for Utopia (Brook Farm)
  • INTUITION over LOGIC
  • The transcendental reality can be known not by
    the rational faculty or logic, but only by
    intuition or mystical insight
  • Oversoul a divine spirit that pervades the
    universe and encompasses all human souls (coined
    by R.W. Emerson, author)
  • All people are open to this higher knowledge
  • Great optimism and faith in men
  • Limitless potential of man
  • mind/spirit gt body/society

19
Wrong is the New Right
  • 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. Henry David
    Thoreau

20
The Founder of Transcendentalism 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
  • in 1835 and writes his first important work
    Nature which describes how humans find God within
    nature
  • In the woods is perpetual youth In the woods
    we return to reason and faith.
  • Emerson went on to become a famous lecturer
    sharing his transcendental philosophy throughout
    the country. Among his quotable phrases
  • Trust thyself every heart vibrates to that iron
    string.
  • To be great is to be misunderstood.

21
Henry David Thoreau - Practitioner
  • If Ralph Waldo Emerson was the philosopher of
    Transcendentalism, Thoreau was its most devoted
    practitioner.
  • While Emerson wrote and lectured about
    Transcendentalism, Thoreau tried to live as a
    transcendentalist.
  • grew up in a middle class family with a
    significant amount of wealth.
  • Also attended Harvard and graduated in 1837.
  • A school teacher
  • Worked in the familys pencil factory

22
Thoreau - Practitioner
  • As an independent thinker, Thoreau became the
    head of the Concord Lyceum organizing lectures
    where he met Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • Thoreau eventually worked as a handyman and
    caretaker of Emersons estate while Emerson spent
    long stints studying abroad in Europe.
  • From 1841 1843 Thoreau decided to conduct an
    experiment of self-sufficiency by building his
    own house on the shores of Walden Pond and living
    off the food he grew on his farm.
  • Thoreau later documented his experiment in his
    famous memoir Walden.
  • Famous quotes from Walden
  • I went to the woods to live intentionally, to
    suck the marrow out of life.

23
Romanticism REALISM Civil War to turn of
the century
  • Realism Style of writing, usually prose, in
    which surface appearance is presented in an
    unembellished way.
  • In contrast to romance or the fantastic, the
    realist writer also seeks to represent
    experiences that are usual or typical rather than
    extraordinary or exotic.
  • Captures ordinary people in everyday experiences
    and settings with almost photographic precision
    and detail
  • Represents the common through common language
  • Attack upon Romanticism and Romantic writers.
  • "Where romanticists transcend the immediate to
    find the ideal, and naturalists plumb the actual
    or superficial to find the scientific laws that
    control its actions, realists center their
    attention to a remarkable degree on the
    immediate, the here and now, the specific action,
    and the verifiable consequence"

24
Transcendentalist Writers 1850-1870
Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet, Essayist, Lecturer
Henry David Thoreau Essayist, Walden Civil
Disobedience
Nathaniel Hawthorne Writer The Scarlet
Letter House of the Seven Gables
Herman Melville Author Poet Moby Dick The
Confidence
25
Realism in Literature
Mark Twain
Stephen Crane
Edith Wharton
Theodore Dreiser
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