Transcendentalism (Late 1820s to 1850 or so)
The Hudson River painters and The Luminists Thomas Cole
Another Thomas Cole painting – notice how humans are in harmony with nature
Kindred Spirits By Asher Durand
What does “Transcendentalism” mean? • There is an ideal spiritual state which “transcends” (goes beyond) the physical and empirical (what you can know intellectually). • Transcendentalism had different meanings for each person involved in the movement.
Defining Characteristics -- What did the Transcendentalists believe? • Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both people and nature. • Transcendentalists also believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. • They had faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed.
Basic Beliefs An individual is the spiritual center of the universe, and in an individual can be found the clue to nature, history and, ultimately, the cosmos itself. It is not a rejection of the existence of God, but a preference to explain an individual and the world in terms of an individual.
Cultural Influences • All the transcendentalists worked to end American slavery. (They all worked with the abolitionist movement.) • They questioned the morality of some aspects of government. (Thoreau’s famous essay on “Civil Disobedience”) • They thought that through meditation and by communing with nature, man could transcend his senses and attain an understanding of beauty and goodness and truth.
Ralph Waldo Emerson • 1803-1882 • “Father of Transcendentalism” -- the thinker! • Unitarian minister • Poet and essayist • Founded the Transcendental Club • Banned from Harvard for 40 years following his Divinity School address • Supporter of abolitionism
Henry David Thoreau • 1817-1862 • Schoolteacher, essayist, poet • The mentee of Emerson – the “doer” • Most famous for Walden and Civil Disobedience • Influenced environmental movement • Supporter of abolitionism
Amos Bronson Alcott • 1799-1888 • Teacher and writer • Founder of Temple School and Fruitlands • Introduced art, music, P.E., nature study, and field trips; banished corporal punishment • Father of novelist Louisa May Alcott
Walt Whitman – Focus Poet -- A poet, essayist & journalist -- Sometimes referred to as “The Father Of Free Verse” -- Wrote openly about death and sexuality -- Bridged the gap between Transcendentalism and Realism
Walt Whitman poems • “O Captain! My Captain!” • “I Sing the Body Electric” (stanzas 1 & 2) • “There Was a Child Went Forth” • “Song of the Open Road” • “Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun”