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Transcendentalism & Modernism

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Nayeli Talamantes

on 11 April 2014

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Transcript of Transcendentalism & Modernism

Transcendentalism & Modernism
An American philosophical and spiritual movement that holds its roots in New England.
Has many loose definitions that all center around ideas based on philosophy, religion, social reform, nature, and the general state of American culture.
Most Transcendentalist writers all believe in rejecting materialism and pursuing closer communion with nature.
Transcendentalist Writers & Texts
Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Born in 1803 to a family that stems from Conservative Unitarian ministers. He was ordained minister of the Second Church in Boston but later resigned after the date of his first wife.
"Nature", "Self-Reliance", "The Transcendentalist".
Henry David Thoreau:
Read Emerson's essay
and never stopped exploring its ideas.
"A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers", "Walden"
Maragaret Fuller:
Became the editor of "The Dial", a Transcendentalist paper in which she wrote essays that strongly promoted equality for women. Was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and drew much influence from him.
"Woman in the Nineteenth Century", "Summer on the Lakes"
Modernist Writers
Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, and activities of daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world.
A notable characteristic of Modernism is self-consciousness, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc.

Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism.
The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?
Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable.
We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man's condition is a solution in
to those inquiries he would put.
He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us.
Let us inquire, to what end is nature?

All science has one aim, namely, to find a theory of nature
. We have theories of races and of functions, but scarcely yet a remote approach to an idea of creation. We are now so far from the road to truth, that religious teachers dispute and hate each other, and speculative men are esteemed unsound and frivolous. But to a sound judgment, the most abstract truth is the most practical. Whenever a true theory appears, it will be its own evidence. Its test is, that it will explain all phenomena. Now many are thought not only unexplained but inexplicable; as language, sleep, madness, dreams, beasts, sex.

Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul.
Strictly speaking, therefore, all that is separate from us, all which Philosophy distinguishes as the NOT ME, that is, both nature and art, all
other men and my own body, must be ranked under this name, NATURE.
In enumerating the values of nature and casting up their sum, I shall use the word in both senses; -- in its common and in its philosophical import. In inquiries so general as our present one, the inaccuracy is not material; no confusion of thought will occur.
Nature, in the common sense, refers to essences unchanged by man; space, the air, the river, the leaf.
Art is applied to the mixture of his will with the same things, as in a house, a canal, a statue, a picture.
But his operations taken together are so insignificant, a little chipping, baking, patching, and washing, that in an impression so grand as that of the world on the human mind, they do not vary the result.

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Transcendentalists shared a belief that each individual could transcend, or go beyond, the physical world into deeper spiritual experiences through free will and intuition. Believers understood God and themselves primarily by feeling their own connection to nature.
An individual was greater than any institution
God could enlighten any person, therefore there was no need for a church
Percieved natutre to contain the equivalent of self knowledge.

Thus it seemed that this one hillside illustrated the principle of all the operations of Nature.

The Maker of this earth but patented a leaf.
What Champollion (2) will decipher this
for us, that we may turn over a new leaf at last? This phenomenon is more exhilarating to me than the luxuriance and fertility of vineyards. True, it is somewhat excrementitious in its character, and there is no end to the heaps of liver, lights, and bowels, as if the globe were turned wrong side outward;
but this suggests at least that Nature has some bowels, and there again is mother of humanity.
This is the frost coming out of the ground; this is Spring. It precedes the green and flowery spring, as mythology precedes regular poetry. I know of nothing more purgative of winter fumes and indigestions.
It convinces me that Earth is still in her swaddling-clothes, and stretches forth baby fingers on every side.
Fresh curls spring from the baldest brow. There is nothing inorganic. These foliaceous heaps lie along the bank like the slag of a furnace, showing that Nature is "in full blast" within. The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit — not a fossil earth, but a living earth; compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life is merely parasitic. Its throes will heave our exuviae from their graves.
You may melt your metals and cast them into the most beautiful moulds you can; they will never excite me like the forms which this molten earth flows out into.
And not only it, but the institutions upon it are plastic like clay in the hands of the potter.

Personification of nature
Rejecting materialism
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Spring p. 288
Rejecting Materialism
"Pleasure is the only thing worth having a theory about," he answered in his slow melodious voice. "But I am afraid I cannot claim my theory as my own. It belongs to Nature, not to me. Pleasure is Nature's test, her sign of approval. When we are happy, we are always good, but when we are good, we are not always happy."
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.
The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot


APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 10
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie, 15
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.


'Factory, Horta de Ebbo', 1909 (oil on canvas)
Arnold Schoenberg
Richard Wagner
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, 20
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock, 25
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. 30
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu,
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago; 35
They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, 40
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Öd’ und leer das Meer
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

When I went to find where they stay at night, I saw something They said, “Where is Darl? Where did Darl go?”

They carried her back under the apple tree.

The barn was still red, but it wasn’t a barn now. It was sunk down, and the red went swirling up. The barn went swirling up in little red pieces, against the sky and the stars so that the stars moved backward.

And then Cash was still awake. He turned his head from side to side, with sweat on his face


We have been passing the signs for sometime now: the drug stores, the clothing stores, the patent medicine and the garages and cafés, and the mile-boards diminishing, becoming more starkly reaccruent: 3 mi. 2 mi. From the crest of a hill, as we get into the wagon again, we can see the smoke low and flat, seemingly unmoving in the unwinded afternoon.

“Is that it, Darl?” Vardaman says. “Is that Jefferson?” He too has lost flesh; like ours, his face has an expression strained, dreamy, and gaunt

Sources Cited
Virginia Woolf
T. S. Eliot
James Joyce
Santa Anna leads 3,000 men in a siege of the Alamo, killing all 187 Texans inside
Andrew Jackson recognizes the Lone Star Republic of Texas; the U.S. now consists of 13 slave and 13 free states
Transcendentalist Club begins to publish The Dial with Margaret Fuller as the first editor
Beginning of the Mexican War
Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organize the first American women's rights convention
Gadsden Purrchase
The Quickstep and the Polka were popular dances. Popular songs included Jimmy Crack Corn, Turkey in the Straw, and America
Home furniture usually included a spinning wheel and a sewing rocker dressing a family became easier with ready-made textiles and clothing.
young women were expected to be able to play the piano and sing.
. Because water was often polluted and coffee and tea were too expensive, alcohol, especially whiskey, was the primary beverage for Americans of the time
absurdist drama
mythical parallelism
Tonality in chromaic post tonaland twelve tone works and metrical rhythym.
Contemporary trend towards realism
theatre structure
same price
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