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Into the Wild and Transcendentalism: an introduction

Transcendentalism, Emerson, and Thoreau

Heather Elizabeth

on 17 August 2016

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Transcript of Into the Wild and Transcendentalism: an introduction

Into the Wild:

an introduction

Transcendental Tenets
(or thoughts):
The Big 5

5. Nature
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry David Thoreau
4. Confidence
2. Self-reliance
3. Free Thought
1. Nonconformity:
Philosophical movement developed in the 1830s and 1840s as a protest to the general state of culture and society.

Includes the belief that society and institutions (school, church, political parties) corrupt the purity of the individual.
How does one behave as a Transcendentalist?
Beliefs continued...
Background and Definition

Intuition is our ability to know things through our emotions rather than reason.

Instinct is an important tool for discovering knowledge and truth.

People should work towards self-improvement and human perfectibility.
Don't conform to society just to "fit in" because society corrupts a person's inner goodwill.
Examples of corruption: slavery, oppressive religions
and leaders, lack of women's rights, etc.
A person in tune with nature, spirituality,
and individuality can teach themselves.

Your intuition and individualism outweighs
outside authority and blind conformity to
custom and tradition.

Do things on your own. Learn from these experiences.
Think for yourself! Free thought
inspires actions based on an
individual's values, not the
values of society.
Follow through on free thought.
Remain true to your values.
Act on them. Advocate for them.
Be a social activist!
Nature is sacred.

The physical facts of the natural world are a doorway to the spiritual or ideal world.

Seek solitude in nature (the best way to escape society). Taking time to experience nature can lead to enlightenment.
an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist and naturalist

best known for his book Walden, a description of his quest for a simple life in tune with nature, and his essay Civil Disobedience, an argument for the resistance of civil government

Civil Disobedience was an inspirational work for renowned pacifist Mahatma Gandhi and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Advocate for abolition, nature, harmony, and intellect

Known as the "Father of Transcendental Literature"
Exhilarated by nature's beauty and
tranquility, Emerson felt he was in
tune with his better self and in
harmony with eternal things.
How is Tupac a modern day Transcendentalist?
Use an example from his poem to support your idea.

With your partner (the person next to you), read the excerpt from Self-Reliance on page 365 in Springboard.

Identify the Big 5 Transcendental Tenets throughout the excerpt. Do this by annotating (marking) the text.

Based on the excerpt, what would Emerson say is the meaning of happiness?
How are you a modern-day Transcendentalist?

Use an example from your own life to support your ideas.
Get out your copy of
Into the Wild.
Turn to the section titled "Author's Note"

Read paragraphs 1 and 2, write down key information about Chris's character.
What inferences can we make about Chris's character? Write your thoughts down.
What is John Krakauer’s purpose for writing Into the Wild?
What larger subjects did the researching of Chris’s life uncover for Krakauer?
Read Paragraphs 6-7

Take note of any words or phrases that give you clues about Krakauer's attitude towards Chris McCandless.

What is the
of these two paragraphs? Explain with a piece of text evidence.
Finally, Paragraph 8

5.What opinion does Kraukauer have of McCandless? Use a piece of text evidence from the author’s note to support your answer.
6.Why did Krakauer choose to end the author’s note with the last line, “I will leave it to the reader to form his or her own opinion of Chris McCandless”?
Beliefs continued...
Based on the title of the book, Into the Wild, and this picture of Christopher McCandless, write a thematic statement that you think this book will make about the subject of the Pursuit of Finding One's Identity.
Christopher McCandless
Embedded Assessment:
You will complete an in-class, timed writing of an argumentative 5 paragraph essay that includes a concession and refutation. You will have two options of writing topics.
Option #1:
Is Christopher McCandless admirably courageous or reckless?
Option #2:
Is Christopher McCandless a modern day Transcendentalist?
Quick Write (no more than 5 minutes):

Based on what you know about Christopher McCandless so far, is he admirably courageous or reckless for making his journey "into the wild"?

Explain why you think so with an example from what you have seen and read so far.
View of God:


- equating God with the forces of nature and the laws of the universe
View of Man:

Man is divine and shares this divinity with all life.
View of Life:


- believing that ultimate reality lies in ideas and in the mind
View of Education:


- the aim is self-knowledge
View of Society:

The Individual is superior to Society, or the community.
Who were the Transcendentalist thinkers that led the movement?
Henry David Thoreau
Ralph Waldo Emerson
But how are Transcendentalism and Romanticism different?
1. God and Inner light
While listening to Tupac's "In the Depths of Solitude," with your partner, identify the 5 tenets of Transcendentalism and annotate the text of the poem.
Quick Write #1
Quick Write #2
Now read Paragraphs 4-5 and answer the following questions
Romanticism Definition and Background
Romanticism was a conscious reaction to Enlightenment, industrialisation, and the rigidness of society as a result.
Transcendentalism has its roots in romanticism, thus there are many similarities.
Favoured individualism, considered natural law divine, feeling could tell more than reasoning.
In literature, romanticism emphasizes the individual, nature, emotion, and the imagination.
So... What makes a Romantic??
1. Individualism
Hero emphasis
Victory in fighting a noble cause - not in winning
Journey > Destination
Hopeless struggle
2. Emotionalism
intuition, faith, perception
virtue and truth found by heart not head
truth found within oneself
3. Glorification & Idealisation of Nature
emphasis on dreamlike, wildness quality of nature
alive, changing, filled with divine spirit (not harmonious)
4. Primitiveness
goodness, value in the 'unspoiled' naturally created state of people
children, savages seen as heroic and admirable
artistic work created by the 'less spoiled' highly valued
5. Gothicism
preoccupation with death, supernatural, grotesque, mysterious, dark
thought natural and therefore beautiful
existence proved things humans could not know
View the music video for 'Wake Me Up' by Avicii and take note of the romantic ideals.
When done the video, take some time to annotate the lyrics to the song. How could it be considered a romantic poem?
For romantics, 'god' is often seen as an external force and they do not believe that all people are inherently good. Romantics felt that people were both light and dark (yin and yang) - this was in direct opposition to Transcendentalists who felt that all people were good because they carried an 'internal spark' that tied them to God - and therefore tied them to goodness.
2. Literary Movements
Romantic literature has a very defined style:
Contrasts of good and evil; light and dark
Effect of dream-like worlds
Narrators - insanity and impossible dreams - often blurred
Concerned with physical world and appealing to readers' senses
Transcendentalist literature has no defined style. Similar because of content.
Transcendentalists: Journey of the Spirit
Romantics: Journey of the body and mind
Would you consider the journey to find one's identity one of the mind and body or of the spirit? Discuss with your group.
With your group, pick a modern song that is popular or that you enjoy.
Copy and paste the lyrics into a google doc
Annotate the poem in the shared doc, identifying transcendentalist or romantic traits - be sure to explain WHY you think this
Share the doc with me when finished
Now it's your turn....
Full transcript