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Transcendentalism PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Transcendentalism. Literature Unit 5. The Transcendentalists. They were a loose-knit group of writers, artists, and reformers Active for only about 10 years

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Literature Unit 5

The Transcendentalists

  • They were a loose-knit group of writers, artists, and reformers

  • Active for only about 10 years

  • Their central tenet (main focus) was the belief that the individual was at the center of the universe, more powerful than any institution, whether political or religious.

The Industrial Revolution

  • Institutions downplayed the importance of the individual

  • Industrialism had shown that machines could actually replace people, that individuals did not matter

Inspired by Strife

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • Pastor in Boston during the early 1830’s

    • mourning the death of his young wife

    • Began to question his beliefs


  • Resigned from the church

  • Traveled to Europe to visit with some of the great philosophers of the day

  • Became a radical thinker

    • “the individual is the world”

    • “the Human Mind is so powerful it can unlock any mystery, from the intricacies of nature to the wonder of God”

The “Over-Soul”

  • Emerson proposed that every soul and all of nature was part of the “Over-Soul”

  • It is a universal spirit to which all beings return after death

  • Every being is part of God’s mind

More Emerson

  • Main principles used to develop transcendentalism included:

    • Individuality

    • Independence

    • An appreciation for the wonders of nature

  • One of the most quoted writers in American Literature

    • Every line is a sound bite

  • Worked as a pastor, writer, lecturer, and poet

What does it mean?

  • Transcendentalism is an intellectual movement founded by Emerson

  • 3 main beliefs

    • Human senses are limited; they convey knowledge of the physical world, but deeper truths can be grasped only through intuition.

    • The observation of nature illuminates the nature of human beings.

    • God, nature, and humanity are united in a shared universal soul, or Over-Soul

What is he talking about?

  • “I am a transparent eyeball…the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part and parcel of God”

  • He is part of nature, part of every living thing, part of God.

  • He is a total hippie.

  • “Nature is a setting that fits equally well in a comic or mourning piece”

  • Nature reflects our moods

  • Our perceptions shape the world around us.

  • “Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

  • Rely on yourself.

  • “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members”

  • Conformists pressure non-conformists to give up their individuality and become like everyone else.

  • “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”

  • If we keep doing things the way we have always done them and never ask why, we lose an opportunity to think for ourselves.

  • “Speak what you think now is hard words, and speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, even though it contradicts everything you said today.”

  • Be willing to change your mind and admit it.

  • “It (society) loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”

  • Conformists prefer to do things the traditional way. They do not appreciate innovation.

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