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UNIT IV: TRANSCENDENTALISM

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UNIT IV: TRANSCENDENTALISM America s First Identity Crisis 1840 - 1870 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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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 capitalism reigned. 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!

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
TRANSCENDENTALISM Origins
  • 1840-50 movement of writers began to seriously
    challenge American values
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Herman Melville
  • Group focuses on reform
  • Ties with Unitarian Church (rejection of Trinity)
  • 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)

14
TRANSCENDENTALISM What it is
  • Belief that the transcendent (or spiritual)
    reality, rather than the material world, is the
    ultimate reality
  • mind/spirit gt body/society
  • Transcend (v.) to go beyond the range or limits
    of something

15
TRANSCENDENTALISM What it is
  • 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 it
    is a philosophy of individualism and
    self-reliance

16
TRANSCENDENTALISM Beliefs
  • Americans should simplify life by de-emphasizing
    materialism and institutions
  • Material possessions and institutions defined
    Americans from the outside
  • Culture was disseminated by 4 institutions
  • Education
  • Family
  • Religion
  • Government
  • Transcendentalists No need for this!
  • Man is inherently good, so he must trust his own
    intuition and nature to define his lifestyle
    (truth is found within us)

17
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

18
TRANSCENDENTALISM Beliefs
  • Considered themselves the Conscience of the
    Nation
  • Challenged individuals to question authority
  • Praised non-conformity
  • Believed morality gt legality
  • Taught the dignity of manual labor
  • Advocated self-trust/ confidence

19
TRANSCENDENTALISM Where is truth?
  • Truth to the transcendentalist what one wants
    to find for oneself that has meaning
  • Believed God is in nature (both physical and
    intuitive).
  • Believed truth is found in communion with God
    (thus, in nature)
  • Finding ones own spirituality will lead one to
    truth
  • God cant be found in church
  • God is spiritual, but not ecumenical (belonging
    to a church)

20
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"

21
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
22
Realism in Literature
Mark Twain
Stephen Crane
Edith Wharton
Theodore Dreiser
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