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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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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
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
Characteristics of Transcendentalism
  • Themes:


        Nature and its Meaning

        Social Reform

the end of romanticism a new beginning
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 politics1
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!