American transcendentalism ralph waldo emerson henry david thoreau
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American Transcendentalism & Ralph Waldo Emerson+Henry David Thoreau. What is Transcendentalism. Idealistic philosophy, spiritual position,and literary movement that advocates reliance on romantic intuition and moral human conscience

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What is Transcendentalism Thoreau

  • Idealistic philosophy, spiritual position,and literary movement that advocates reliance on romantic intuition and moral human conscience

  • Belief that humans can intuitively transcend the limits of the senses and of logic to a plane of “high truths”

  • Value spirituality,divinity of humanity, nature, intellectual pursuit, social justice

  • Roughly 1830s-1850s

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Where did it come from? Thoreau

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson gave German philosopher Immanuel Kant credit of popularizing the term “transcendentalism”

  • It began as a reform movement in the Unitarian church

  • It is a philosophy of spirituality.

  • It centered around Boston and Concord, MA. In the mid-1800’s.

  • Emerson first expressed his philosophy of transcendentalism in his essay Nature.

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Beliefs of Transcendentalism Thoreau

  • The intuitive faculty, instead of the rational or sensical, became the means for a conscious union of the individual psyche with the world psyche also known as the Oversoul, life-force, prime mover and G-d (known in Sanskrit as Brahma)

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Transcendentalism as Spiritual Revival Thoreau

  • Ironic refiguring of Puritanism without the theological dogma

  • Transcendentalists lonely explorers (pilgrims)outside society and convention

  • Trying to form new society based on metaphysical awareness

  • Trying to purify society by purifying hearts and minds

  • Nature is spiritual manifesto.

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Major Transcendentalists Thoreau

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson——father of American transcendentalism

  • Henry David Thoreau——famous practical transcendentalist

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Ralph Waldo Emerson Thoreau

  • 1803-1882

  • Unitarian minister

  • Poet and essayist

  • Founded the Transcendental Club

  • Popular lecturer

  • Banned from Harvard for 40 years following his Divinity School address

  • Supporter of abolitionism

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Emerson Thoreau’s Major Works

  • Nature 1836——Emerson’s most original and significant work, offering the essence of his philosophy of American Transcendentalism

  • The American Scholar 1837——America;s literary declaration of independence

  • The Divinity School Address 1838

  • Essays: First Series 1841

  • Essays: Second Series 1844

Contain some of his most

Profound statements of


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Emerson Thoreau’s Major Works

6) Representative Men 1850

7) English Traits 1856

8) The Conduct of Life 1860

9) May-Day and Other Pieces 1867

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Nature Thoreau

  • Most of his major ideas: the need for a new national vision, the use of personal

  • Experience, the notion of the cosmic Over-Soul, and the doctrine of compensation——are suggested in his first publication: Nature (1836)

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Emerson Thoreau’s Influence

  • A great prose-poet, Emerson influenced a long line of American poets, including Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Edwin Arlington Robinson,Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, and Robert Frost.

  • He is also credited with influencing the philosophies of John Dewey, George Santayana, Friedrich Nietzsche, and William James.

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Henry David Thoreau Thoreau

  • 1817-1862

  • Schoolteacher, essayist,poet

  • Most famous for Walden and Civil Disobedience

  • Influenced environmental movement

  • Supporter of abolitionism

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Thoreau Thoreau’s Major Literary Work

  • Civil Disobedience

  • A Plea for John Brown

  • A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

A record of a canoe excursion, giving observant

Comments on nature, man, society and literature

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Thoreau Thoreau’s Major Literary Works

Walden——regard as a classic American book that explores natural simplicity, harmony, and beauty as models for just social and cultural conditions.

A reproduction of Thoreau’s cabin with a statue of Thoreau.

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Moved to a cabin on Walden Pond, on July, 1845; lived there for 2 years

It is

Walden 1854

A collection of nature essays

A book about man, what he is,

And what he should be and must Be

Full of ideas expressed to persuade

His neighbors out of their complacency

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Thoreau for 2 years’s Point of View

  • Didn’t like the way a materialistic America was developing and was strongly outspoken on this point

  • Hated the human injustice as represented by the slavery system

  • Saw nature as a genuine restorative, healthy influence on man’s spiritual well-being

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Thoreau for 2 years’s Point of View

  • Had faith in the inner virtue and inward, spiritual grace of man

  • Was very critical of modern civilization

  • He was impatient with his fellowmen

  • Who did not want to spend so little time on self-improvement

  • Had trust in the future