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An introduction to the basics of Transcendentalism.

Daniel Konopasek

on 9 July 2013

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Transcript of Transcendentalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Works of Emerson
pages 388-390
An Independent Thinker
A New England Childhood
Finding His Niche
A Crisis of Confidence
Meetings of Great Minds
The Individual is the World
Transcendentalism: The Seekers
Time Frame: 1830s-1840s
Ralph Waldo Emerson
-His father was a pastor; he also became a pastor.
-After three years, he resigned from the pastorate due to the death of his wife and the restrictions in the Unitarian church.
-Emerson respects nature, and nature respects him.

-All of this delight doesn’t come from just man, but from man and nature!
“Transcendental Club’s unofficial statement of belief”
What Emerson says he is:
-transparent eyeball
-he sees all
-the currents of the Universal Being circulates through him
-part or parcel of God
-the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty
The individual is the center of the universe.
-Boston pastor
-wife died of TB
-religious and academic institutions downplayed the individual.
-Industrial Revolution added to that.
-RWE determined that the mind was the most important force in the universe.
-traveled to Europe to visit with philosophers
-returned to America to forge the Transcendentalist movement
-Two major works of Transcendentalism: Emerson's Nature and Thoreau's Walden
-Emerson first proposed his ideas at Harvard University. People loved it.
-Emerson proposed the idea of the Oversoul: a universal spirit to which all beings returned afterdeath. Every being was part of the mind of God.
-Many considered Emerson to be blasphemous and heretical.
-Others flocked to his house in Massachusetts to discuss his philosophy. This scene was dubbed the "Athens of America.
-Alcott believed that schools should focus on teaching students how to think, debate, and discuss not just memorize.
-Thoreau, a protege of Emerson, built a cottage on Walden Pond and lived there for two years. He documented his experiences there in his book, Walden.
A Lasting Legacy
-Thoreau was an abolitionist.
-Because he opposed slavery and the Mexican War and he refused to pay taxes, he was imprisoned.
-Thoreau developed the theory of nonviolent disobedience.
-Gandhi and King Jr. adopted this theory.
-Transcendentalism appears: when the writer celebrates the individual, when the author looks to the natural world as a mirror to human life, when there is the belief in the power of human intuition to grasp truths.
-R.W.E.'s principles: individuality, independence, and an appreciation for the wonders of nature.
-Influenced the young people of his day.
-known for essays, lectures, and poetry
-His father died when he was seven
-He turned to his brilliant eccentric aunt who encouraged him to think freely.
-He traveled to Europe and met up with some great English writers.
-He returned home, remarried, and started living a secure life with his new wife and family.
-His lectures and talks turned to essays.
-He was soft-spoken, calm, and sober, but he resisted conformity.
-"Good men must not obey the laws too well."
-Despite achieving fame in 1841 with the publication of a collection of journals and lectures called "Essays," Emerson primarily considered himself a poet.
Page 387
-Vocabulary Words: blithe and bastions
-Nature brings “perfect exhilaration”
-The woods brings perpetual youth.
-The woods return us to reason and faith.
-egotism vanishes
-labels don’t matter
The Anti-Biblical:
-power in man is new in nature
-only man knows what he can do and he only knows through experience.
-Trust thyself
-Nothing is sacred but your mind.
Not necessarily Anti-Biblical:
-envy is ignorance
-imitation is suicide
-man must work for food
-God doesn't want cowards.
-don't conform to society
-society is a conspiracy against men
-accept yourself
-consistency is bad
Henry David Thoreau

-eccentric child who rarely followed rules
-was very calm and casual about his studies; so much so that his mother had to push him to pursue an education
-disobeyed rules even at Harvard

Questioning Authority
-opened his own school because he disagreed with a corporal punishment policy
-moved into Emerson's house
-decided to live a Transcendental life instead of working
-simplified his life so he could write about the spiritual relationship between humanity and nautre, which supported his political and social beliefs

On Walden Pond
-lived for two years on Walden pond, but condensed his writing into a one year experience
-Walden is the supreme work of Transcendental literature because Thoreau blended natural observation, social criticism, and philosophical insight

A Noble Soul
-died at 44 years old of tuberculosis
-Emerson spoke at his funeral
-didn't have a lot of outward success
-a major source of inspiration to many leaders

Literary Analysis
-Style: the manner in which a writer puts his thoughts into words
-Metaphor: a comparison of two unlike things that don't use the words "like" or "as"
-magnanimity (Honors)
-sublime (Academic)

by William Cullen Bryant

pages 266-269
Literary Analysis
Meter: a systematic arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables.

Mood: the feeling created by in a reader by a literary work or passage
venerable: worthy of respect

gloaming: evening dusk; twilight
-personified as a woman
-She is glad and beautiful when man is happy.
-She is healing and sympathetic when man has "darker musings."
-provides comfort when man is dying
-She teaches man when he is dying.
-Circle of Life: When you die, you return back to the earth.
-When you die, you will be with the other greats who have gone before you.
-Dying is just resting.
-If you think that nobody will care that you die, remember that they will join you too.
......live in a way where you will be calm before you die.
How does this relate to Transcendentalism?
The First Snowfall

by James Russell Lowell

pages 272-273
Poem Dissection
Mood: Sombre and solemn

Stanzas 1-4 appeal as imagery

Rhyme Scheme: ABCB pattern

Snow serves as a healer.

Revelation: The speaker and his wife's first great sorrow is the death of their first daughter.
Jack London
only lived for forty years
Jack London
-endured a lot of hardships early on in life

-sympathized with the working class

-His struggles inspired his writing.
Difficult Beginnings
-started working at 11 and worked odd jobs that allowed him to read during the down time.

-traveled a lot-so much so that it allowed him to become an active protestor with working class people.

-was arrested for vagrancy

-returned to school and completed it in one year

-London left college and pursued mining for gold in Alaska

-These experiences made him aware of man's desire for wealth and power and his inability to control the forces of nature.
A Writing Life
-returned to California and started writing

-received a ton of rejection letters but eventually "struck it rich" with 1903's The Call of the Wild.

-He became the highest paid and most industrious writer in the country.

-Wrote more than fifty books including Sea Wolf and White Fang.
Literary Analysis
Conflict: the struggle between two opposing forces

Internal: occurring within the mind of a character

External: occurring between a character and something else (i.e. another man, nature, gods, or even God

Irony: a contrast between what is stated and what is meant or what is expected to happen and what actually does happen
unwonted: unusual; unfamiliar

peremptorily: decisively; commandingly
To Build a Fire
-Examples of Instinct vs. Intellect

-Power of nature


-Man's thoughts before death

-How is the man a dynamic character?
William Faulkner
-Faulkner was from Oxford, Mississippi. A lot of his writing is set in an imaginary world of Yoknapatawpha County-based in Mississippi.
A Writer's Roots
-never finished high school
-joined the British Royal Flying Corps, but never fought in World War I.
-devoted himself to writing in 1926 after a friend helped him publish his first book.
A Gold Mine of Inspiration
-Faulkner wrote about the decay of traditional values as small communities were swept up with the advancement of the modern age.
-His style consisted of jumbled time sequences, stream of consciousness narration, dialect, long sentences. He called this style "the human heart in conflict with itself.
A Slow Spread of Recognition
-At first, many thought that he was just eccentric. Later on, people considered him to be innovative.
Experimenting with Narration
-The Sound and the Fury-complex novel told through the eyes of three brothers, one of whom has intellectual disabilities.
-As I Lay Dying-told from fifteen different points of view.
Hollywood Years
-Faulkner wrote some great screenplays.

-won the Nobel Prize in 1950.
Literary Analysis
dialect: a manner of speaking common to a particular region or group.
Vocabulary Words
moiling: churning; swirling

swag (how cool is that?): suspended cluster of branches
Race at Morning
-How does this story contradict what Faulkner was known for in his writing.

-Find three examples of different literary techniques that reflect Faulkner's style.

-Where is there foreshadowing in this story?

-Do you agree with Mister Ernest's lesson? Explain.

-What Biblical principles can you find in the story?
Robert Frost

-won four Pulitzer Prizes
-read and recited poetry and Kennedy's inauguration
-all of this did not come easily
Early Struggles
-father died young

-mother uprooted the family

-dropped out of college at Dartmouth

-worked odd jobs as he wrote poetry
The English Years
-spent ten years farming

-unable to have his poems published, he moved his family to England

-established some writing success after befriending Ezra Pound.

-his success spread to the United States
Critical Acclaim
-published a lot of poetry

-won many awards

-taught at many colleges

-continued farming
New England Life
-poetry was popular with critics and the public

-used traditional verse and conversational language

-used nature as a topic

-poems appeared simple but contained deeper meaning
Literary Analysis
blank verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter poetry
pastoral poetry: poetry that deals with rural settings
rueful: feeling or showing someone sorrow or pity
Frost Poetry Presentations
Read the poem aloud with the class.

Address the pastoral elements in the story. If the nature in the poetry addresses any Transcendental elements, explain how it does.

What is the meaning of the poem and how can it matter to the class?

What poetic elements are present in the poem? Use what you already know from your study of poetry.
Poetry Assignments
Birches (882)
Sam, Matt, and Abbie
Elias and Danny
Mending Wall (886)
Marie, Ashley, and Brianna
Out, Out-
Liz and Sedona
Gift Outright (890) & Acquainted (892)
Molly and Kelly
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