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Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1803-1882. Father of Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Life “Nature” “The American Scholar” Speech “Divinity School Address” “Self Reliance” “Hymn Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument, April 19, 1836”. Emerson’s Famous Quotes.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

1803-1882

Father of Transcendentalism


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  • Transcendentalism

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Life

  • “Nature”

  • “The American Scholar” Speech

  • “Divinity School Address”

  • “Self Reliance”

  • “Hymn Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument, April 19, 1836”


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Emerson’s Famous Quotes

  • “The only way to have a friend is to be one”

  • “To be great is to be misunderstood”

  • “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”


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Transcendentalism

  • Major advocates

    • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • Writer and Naturalist Henry David Thoreau

    • Educator Bronson Alcott (Louisa May’s father)

    • Reverend George Ripley

    • Publisher Palmer Peabody


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Three Beliefs

  • The universe is connected to the individual through nature

  • By contemplating nature, one can transcend the world and be united with the “Over-Soul”

  • One must follow his own intuition and beliefs, no matter how they stray from those of society


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I. Universe to Man Connection

  • From “Divinity School Address”

    • “The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is that of nature…there is never a beginning, there is never an end, to the inexplicable continuity of this web of God”


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II. Union with the “Over-Soul”

  • From “Nature”

    • “The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me, I am part or parcel of God.”


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III. Trust and Follow Yourself

  • From “Nature”

    • “If the single man plant himself indomitably on his own instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.”


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Who Was Emerson?

  • Happily married, upright, kind, and seemingly conventional

  • Held the VERY unconventional view that reality is derived through intuition, not the senses


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Detractor

  • Herman Melville (Moby Dick and Billy Budd) mocked him in his novel The Confidence of Man as a philosophical fraud


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Supporters

  • Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickenson nearly worshipped him as a fountain of inspiration


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Background

  • 8 years old when his father, a Unitarian minister, died

  • Mother took in boarders to save money for her 4 sons to attend college

  • Earned a degree in divinity from Harvard

  • Married Ellen Tucker in 1829; she died 2 years later and left him financially secure

  • Married Lydia Jackson in 1834 and began writing


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Important Works

  • “Nature”

  • “The American Scholar” Speech

  • “Divinity School Address”

  • “Self Reliance”

  • “Hymn Sung at the Completion of

    the Concord Monument, April 19, 1836”


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“Nature”

  • Became the manifesto of the Transcendental Club

  • The way to God’s truth is by communicating with nature, not reason


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From “Nature”

  • “Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration…

  • I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty.


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The American Scholar

  • 1837 Speech at Harvard

  • “our intellectual Declaration of Inependence”…Oliver Wendol Holmes


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Divinity School Address

  • True religion resides within the individual, not Christianity or the Church

  • Everyone has equal access to the “Divine Spirit”

  • This enraged the officials at Harvard Divinity School and he was barred from speaking there for 30 years


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From “Divinity School Address”

  • “Meantime, whilst the doors of the temple stand open, night and day, before every man, and the oracles of this truth cease never, it is guarded by one stern condition, this, namely; it is an intuition. It cannot be received at second hand. Truly speaking, it in not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul. What he announces, I must find true in me, or wholly reject; and on his word, or as his second, be he who he may, I can accept nothing.”


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Self Reliance

  • Many famous quotes:

    • Envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide

    • Whoso would be a man, must be a non-conformist

    • Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind

    • You will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it.


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Hymn: April 19, 1836

  • Written for those who fought at the Battle of Concord:

    “By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

    Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

    Here once the embattled farmers stood,

    And fired the shot heard round the world


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The foe long since in silence slept;

Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;

And time the ruined bridge has swept

Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,

We set today a votive stone;

That memory may their deed redeem,

When like our sires, our sons are gone.


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Emerson, the Beloved

  • Emerson was so well-loved, that when his house burned down, his friends sent him on a trip to Europe and rebuilt it for him while he was gone.


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Some Good Advice…

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”


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Final Thoughts…

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”


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Emerson

  • Key intellectual and philosophical voice of the 19th century

  • Spread the philosophy of Transcendentalism

  • Propelled individualism to the forefront of the American conscience

  • First voiced democracy and ordinary experience as unique American themes


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