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A new philosophy: Transcendentalism - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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American Transcendentalist Literature 1840-1855. A new philosophy: Transcendentalism. Began in the 1840’s Literary Movement influenced by the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant Concentrated in New England – called the New England Renaissance

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Transcendentalist Literature


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A new philosophy: Transcendentalism

  • Began in the 1840’s

  • Literary Movement influenced by the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant

  • Concentrated in New England – called the New England Renaissance

  • Reaction against intellectual and rational belief of the Unitarian Church.

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Transcendentalism – A definition

  • Human senses can know only the physical reality.

  • The fundamental truths of existence lay outside the reach of the senses and can only be grasped through intuition.

  • Attention is focused on the human spirit

  • Attention is also focused on the natural world and its relationship to humanity.

  • All forms of being God, nature, and humanity are spiritually united.

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Elements of Transcendentalism

  • Mysticism and emotional intensity

  • Emphasis on the Individual

  • Respect for Nature

  • Great faith in higher forms of knowledge

  • Live simply

  • Transcendental is the understanding a person gains intuitively

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Major Beliefs

  • Over-Soul: omnipresent power of goodness and truth

  • Basic truth of the universe lies beyond the knowledge we obtain from ourselves.

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Major Beliefs:

  • We obtain knowledge through:

  • Physical world - science and technology

  • Intuition - soul

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Influences on Transcendentalism

  • Religion - “New Puritanism”

  • We can experience God first hand

  • Everyone can experience God

  • Inner spiritual life is confirmed by nature

  • Spiritual unity of all forms of being - God/humanity/nature share universal soul.

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  • B. Literature (Romanticism)

  • Belief in the good of humanity.

  • Value of the individual

  • Nature demands reverence of the writer. It is a symbol.

  • Nature is a means to self-knowledge.

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Achievements of Transcendentalism

  • Relates all individuals to both the natural world and their own inner worlds.

  • New self-awareness

  • Long-term influence on American poetry -- development of individualism.

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American Transcendentalists

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Henry David Thoreau

  • Walt Whitman

  • Emily Dickinson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson1803 - 1882

  • Father of Transcendentalism.

  • Told Americans they should develop their own distinctive art forms, rather than to continue to imitate European models.

  • Major Work: Nature

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Henry David Thoreau1817 - 1862

  • Follower of Emerson who put the transcen-dental philosophy into practice.

  • Bought land near Walden Pond and lived there for two years.

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Henry David Thoreau

  • Major Works: Walden and “Civil Disobedience.”

  • “Civil Disobedience” profoundly influenced leaders throughout the world, including Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Walt Whitman1819 - 1892

  • Co-founder of modern American poetry.

  • Style characterized by frank subject matter, long, rambling style.

  • His mission was to bring ranks, races, and civilizations together.

  • Major Work: Leaves of Grass.

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Emily Dickinson1830-1886

  • Wrote nearly 1,800 poems.

  • Cofounder of Modern American Poetry.

  • The majority of her poetry was published after she died.

  • In 1955, she finally gained the recognition she deserved.

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Emily Dickinson

I'm Nobody! Who Are You

I'm nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there's a pair of us--don't tell!

They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!