The Evolution of Transcendentalism
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Pham, Remy Bloom, Erin Cerda, Jared Sandoval, René Gherman, Jennifer Maxfield-Kowalski, Hailey Modern Literature, P2 PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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The Evolution of Transcendentalism . Pham, Remy Bloom, Erin Cerda, Jared Sandoval, René Gherman, Jennifer Maxfield-Kowalski, Hailey Modern Literature, P2. Key Elements. Philosophical, religious and literary movement Search for a liberating philosophy

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Pham, Remy Bloom, Erin Cerda, Jared Sandoval, René Gherman, Jennifer Maxfield-Kowalski, Hailey Modern Literature, P2

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The Evolution of Transcendentalism

Pham, Remy

Bloom, Erin

Cerda, Jared

Sandoval, René

Gherman, Jennifer

Maxfield-Kowalski, Hailey

Modern Literature, P2

Key Elements

  • Philosophical, religious and literary movement

  • Search for a liberating philosophy

  • Against the religious orthodoxy of New England Calvinism.

    • doctrines: of predestination, absolute sovereignty of God

  • Encouraged individuals to find “an original relation to the universe” (Emerson)

  • Criticism of contemporary society for blind conformity



  • Part of the Romantic movement (second half of 18th century)

  • Originated near Concord, Mass., ~1830 to 1855

  • Mellowed, but still continues

  •  Low point by the beginning of the 19th century

  • Succeeded by Modernism


How Society Influenced Transcendentalism

  • The turn away from romanticism, & towards Transcendentalism

    • questioned God

    • question gov (run by church)

    • began thinking

    • thinking turned to writing

    • writing spun out of control

The Transcendentalists Expressed their thoughts through . . .

  • Literature

    • People & Works

    • Stylistic Devices

  • Art

  • Lecturing

  • Ethics

  • Culture

  • Spirituality

  • Politics


Characteristics of Transcendentalism

  • Themes:


            Nature and its Meaning

            Social Reform

The End of Romanticism & A New Beginning

  • Of the many events, these were most important: 

    • May 5, 1819: William E. Channing preaches Unitarian Christianity

      • sparked the spread of new religions

    • September 1836: Transcscendental Club formed

      • Included key people such as: Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, William H. Channing, James F. Channing, Sophia Ripley, Margaret Fuller, & more.

    • September 9, 1836: Emerson’s “Nature” published

      • Significance: After being published, the younger generations saw him as the next mentor of America

    • 1837/1838: Emerson speaks at Harvard (“The American Scholar"/ Divinity School Address)

  • 1845: First series of Emerson's essays published

  • 1845: Margaret Fuller publishes her “Woman in the Nineteenth Century”

The Romantics  . . . 

 Walt Whitman

  • Leaves of Grass: stressed individualism that is key to transcendentalism

    Emily Dickinson

  • Poems by Emily Dickinson

  • Poems: Second Series

    • most poems stress a search for universal truths and investigate the human condition

      William Wordsworth

  • Lyrical Ballads:considered the start of the American Romanticism movement


. . . and the Transcendentalists

  • German transcendentalism (more so “idealism” linked with romanticism and rev. politics of Enlightenment)

    • Immanuel Kant

      • Root of transcendentalism

    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge / Thomas Carlyle

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • American lecturer, essayist, and poet, leader of Transcendentalist movement

    • seen as a champion of individualism

    • Nature (1836): basis of American Transcendentalism

  • Henry David Thoreau

    • Walden, simplicity & natural surroundings

    • Essay, Civil Disobedience, resistance to civil government moral opposition to an unjust state.


Who (Cont. . . )

  • Margaret Fuller

    • The Dial w/ Emerson; publication of many transcendentalist's works

    • Journalist, critic, and woman's rights advocate

  • Elizabeth Palmer Peabody

    • First English-language kindergarten in the United States

    • Record of a School, outlining the plan of the school and Alcott's philosophy of early childhood education

      • Alcott was who she learned teaching from

  • George Ripley

    • Founder of Unitarian community;

    • Editor for Harper’s Magazine; monthly mag. of lit., politics, culture, $$, & arts


Stylistic Devices of the Romantic and Transcendent Eras

  • The "Emersonian" tradition of romantic transcendentalism 

    • experimentation in writing

    • (E. E. Cummings used it!)

  • E. E. Cummings' "use of low dialect to create satire and the visual 'shaping' of poems."

  •  Symbolism / and myth for Man and Nature

  • desired to express the "inexpressible" 

  • importance of the individual, the unique, even the eccentric

  • rejected absolute systems, whether of philosophy or religion (acknowledged the hypocrisy of the churches)


Romantic & Transcendentalist Artists

John Trumbull

Albert Bierstadt  

Thomas Cole


Time Line (cont'd...)

  • Spring 1845: Thoreau begins his stay at Walden Pond

  • December 25, 1846: Emerson’s poems Published

  • May 1849: Henry David Thoreau publishes Resistance to Cicil Government leter know as Cicil Disobedience in Elizabeth Peachbodys Aesthetic Papers

  • 1854: Publication of Walden (aka: Life in the Woods) by Henry David Thoreau

    • Significance: It showed what many transcendentalists were influenced by, the war.

  • February, 1862 Julia Ward Howe published “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the Atlantic Monthly

    • A work that: was considered to be the most important song in the civil war

  • Death of Thoreau: May 6th, 1862

  • Death of Emerson: April 27th, 1882 


The Ethics of Romanticism vs. Transcendentalism

  •  Romanticist Ethics

    • profound engagement with ethical questions

    • impelled by a will to value in the face of a prevailing reduction of value

  •  Transcendentalist Ethics

    • transcend the limits of human sense-experience

    • Emerson, reason is "the highest faculty of the soul . . . it never reasons, never proves, it simply perceives; it is vision"

    • spiritual and transcendental > material and empirical


Culture of Transcendentalism

  • The Romantic culture is testified by those of the

    Transcendentalists  . . . 

  • Are strong believers in power of the individual and divine message

  • Study religious science, divine science and unity


Culture of Transcendentalism (Cont...)

  • Wanted people to understand the circle of life/concept of it

    Transcendentalists . . .

  • Influenced Literature and Philosophy 

  • Used lots of jazz in their music

  • Used meditation for relaxation

  • Dominated thoughts of American Renaissance


Transcendentalist Views on Spiritually

  • Departed from orthodox Calvinism

    •  believed in importance of human striving rather than Puritan inescapable human depravity

    • emphasized unity rather than Trinity of God (Unitarian)

  • Jesus, inferior to God but greater than humans

  • some believe Jesus to be human but have special athority (Theologian Joseph Priestly)

  • Jesus saves humans from sin, not just punishment ( leading preacher William Ellery Channing)

  •  Channing said that humans should partake of Divinity so that "they may have a growing likeness to the Supreme Being"


Intellect on Transcendentalism

  • Part of  God is in each Man

  • We learn through our Devine Intelect

  • Understand what is right in the world; understand what is good

  • We are divine animals

  • There is a direct line of communication between God and Man

  • The basic truths of the universe lie beyond the knowledge of what we obtain

  • We have the capability to acknoledge our own souls, to understand our existing

  •  We have the ability to know of the phyical world


Transcendentalist View on Politics

  • Utopia: include Alcott's Fruitlands, the Transcendentalists Club's Brook Farm, and Thoreau's cabin at Walden

  • Transcendentalists dissatisfied with society, focusing on American government policies

  • These include the treatment of Native Americans,the war with Mexico, and slavery


Transcendentalist View on Politics

  • Transcendentalists believed in the abolition of slavery

  • Thoreau wrote Resistance to Civil Government in 1849

  • Thoreau: nonviolent action (not paying taxes) could promote change

  • Civil disobedience could change the government

  • Citizens should not  recognize a government that passes unjust laws 

  • Citizens should not follow the unjust laws


So why is this era important? 

  • Individualism

  • New views 

  •             ... & they were being heard!

  • HMK


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