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
What is Transcendentalism
  • 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
where did it come from
Where did it come from?
  • 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.
beliefs of transcendentalism
Beliefs of Transcendentalism
  • 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)
transcendentalism as spiritual revival
Transcendentalism as Spiritual Revival
  • 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.
major transcendentalists
Major Transcendentalists
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson——father of American transcendentalism
  • Henry David Thoreau——famous practical transcendentalist
ralph waldo emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • 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
emerson s major works
Emerson’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


emerson s major works9
Emerson’s Major Works

6) Representative Men 1850

7) English Traits 1856

8) The Conduct of Life 1860

9) May-Day and Other Pieces 1867

  • 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)
emerson s influence
Emerson’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.
henry david thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
  • 1817-1862
  • Schoolteacher, essayist,poet
  • Most famous for Walden and Civil Disobedience
  • Influenced environmental movement
  • Supporter of abolitionism
thoreau s major literary work
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

thoreau s major literary works
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.

walden 1854
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

thoreau s point of view
Thoreau’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
thoreau s point of view17
Thoreau’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