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Emerson, Thoreau, and Transcendentalism


Title: Emerson, Thoreau, and Transcendentalism Author: Power To Learn Initiative Last modified by: Power To Learn Initiative Created Date: 6/15/2006 1:43:39 PM – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Emerson, Thoreau, and Transcendentalism

Emerson, Thoreau, and Transcendentalism
Transcendental Beliefs
  • A Universal Soul or Energy (Oversoul)
  • Essential Goodness of Humans
  • Corrupting nature of society
  • Perfectionism and Optimism
  • Symbolic aspect of nature

Emersons Major Ideas
  • Transparent Eyeball (Refers to the idea that one
    must empty oneself of previous ideas and
    experiences in order to see the proper nature
    of the universe.(Nature, 1836)
  • Demand for original American thought and art.
    (The American Scholar, 1837)

Emersons Ideas Cont.
  • Rejection of traditional values and ideas, in
    favor of ones own empirical knowledge about the
    world. This includes religious beliefs.
    (Self-Reliance, The Divinity School Address)

Symbol, Nature, and language
  • Emersons dictum on the nature of nature and
    language. (Nature,1836)
  • 1.Words are signs of natural facts
  • 2.Particular natural facts are symbols of
    particular spiritual facts.
  • 3.Nature is the symbol of the spirit
  • How are these ideas the dominant philosophy in
    American Romantic writing?

Henry David Thoreau Major Works and Ideas
  • Civil Disobedience--States that the only law men
    are bound to is the law of their own conscience.
    Also states that citizens have the right to
    peacefully rebel against unjust laws.

Works and Ideas Cont.
  • Walden (1854)
  • Themes
  • Environmentalism
  • Anti-materialism
  • Self-reliance
  • Critique of American Society

Quotes about Thoreau
  • Emerson "He was bred to no profession he never
    went to church he never voted he refused to pay
    a tax to the State he ate no flesh he drank no
    wine he never knew the use of tobacco and,
    though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor

Quotes about Thoreau
  • James Russell Lowell "He was a Transcendentalist
    crackpot and phony who insisted on going back to
    flint and steel when he had a matchbox in his
    pocket a fellow to the loonies who thought bran
    or wearing of the substitution of hooks and eyes
    for buttons would save the world."
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