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Transcendentalism and Emerson

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Title: Transcendentalism and Emerson


1
Transcendentalism and Emerson
2
Historical, Ideological and Cultural
Background
1. 1812, war with Britain 2. 1830s, a series of
wars against native Americans 3.18461848
, war against Mexico 4.1848, discovery of gold in
California, thus the Gold Rush 5.1859,
first oil well drilled in Pennsylvania 6.18611865
, Civil War 7.1869, the first transcontinental
railway constructed
3
The Doctrines of Transcendentalism
  • The most important thing in the universe is
    spirit, or the Oversoul.
  • The Transcendentalists stress the importance of
    the individual. The ideal type of man is the
    self-reliant individual through the perfection of
    whom the regeneration of society can be achieved.
  • 3. The Transcendentalists have a fresh perception
    of nature as symbolic of God. Nature is the
    garment of the Oversoul.

4
Emersons Major Works
(1) Nature (1836) (2) The American Scholar
(1837) (3) Self-Reliance (1841) (4) The Over-Soul
(1841)
5
The
Interpretation to Over-soul
  • The over-soul is believed to be an all-pervading
    power for goodness, omnipresent and omnipotent
    from which all things come and of which all are a
    part. It exists in nature and man alike and
    constitutes the chief element of the universe.
    According to Emerson, it is a supreme reality of
    mind, a spiritual unity of all beings, and a
    religion regarded as an emotional communication
    between an individual soul and the universal
    over-soul of which it is a part. He holds that
    intuition is a more certain way of knowing than
    reason and that the mind could intuitively
    perceive the existence of the over-soul and of
    certain absolutes.

6
Primacy of the Individual Man
  • Emerson strongly believes in the divinity and
    infinity of man as an individual. Since man is
    divine, he can totally rely on himself. And
    self-reliance in turn leads to self-improvement,
    self-cultivation, and self-perfection. Man is
    important to the whole society, whose
    regeneration relies on the regeneration of the
    individual. Emerson constantly emphasizes the
    infinitude of the private man, trying to convince
    people that the possibilities for man to develop
    and improve himself are infinite.

7
Primacy of Nature
  • Emersons nature is the garment of the over-soul,
    symbolic and moral-bound. Nature is not something
    purely of the matter, but alive with Gods
    overwhelming presence. Besides, it exercises a
    healthy and restorative influence on human
    beings. Children are considered to see nature
    better than adults. Emerson says in his essays,
    Nature is the symbol of spirit, and it always
    wears the colors of spirit.

8
The Importance of Emersons Historical Status
1. He embodied a new nations desire and struggle
to assert its own identity in its formative
period. 2. His aesthetics marked the birth of
true American poetry. 3. He called for an
independent culture, which represented the desire
of the whole nation to develop a culture of its
own. 4. His reputation declined somewhat in
recent years because of his cheerful optimism.
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