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American Studies: Overview of Transcendentalism

Tara Wood

on 14 March 2012

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Transcript of Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism Unitarianism emerges a separate liberal religious movement in the mid-1700s (as a result of the divisions of Calvinist-informed Puritan churches)
evolved in the 1830s & 40s from a movement of Boston liberal theology
Unitarianism advocated a more generous view of human motives and capabilities & a more positive view of the nature of God than Calvinism
In 1826, Unitarianism became a new religious denomination, eager to spread its message of spiritual development and human capability Background Sidebar Calvinism dark view of human nature
innate depravity
no human will
Salvation was given not earned Ralph Waldo Emerson a young Unitarian minister
proponent of theories that the mind, rather than the senses, could provide a kind of spiritual experience
In his book, Nature (1836), Emerson put forth a theory based on "intuition" rather than empirical evidence
argued that the mind and nature corresponded, that nature could mirror to us our own identities and potentialities, because they had a common origin and shared a common nature. (1803-1882) Nature Emerson's publication of "Nature" marks the beginning of Transcendentalism Emerson's Teachings spirtually intense, ethically-grounded nonconformity (each man and woman should not accept religious teachings passively)
intuition = innate moral sense

this philosophy, which rested on the premise of a unifying transcendent or spiritual energy that generated all reality and held it in unity = Transcendentalism "Souls are not saved in bundles. The Spirit saith to the man, 'How is it with thee personally?'" After the publication of Nature in 1836, other publications emerged that solidified Transcendentalism's blossoming
What began as a theological movement was beginning to open into a more general movement of reform, with important implications for education, politics, and social justice, as well as literature and art. Transcendentalism
begins ... So what exactly is Transcendentalism? as you watch the mash-ups, listen to the music, observe the images and read the quotes in order to gather characteristics of Transcendentalism. Make a list of your observations in your notebook. The Characteristics
of Transcendentalism Key Figures Ralph Waldo Emerson
Margaret Fuller
Theodore Parker
Amos Bronson Alcott
Henry David Thoreau Henry David
Thoreau in 1845, Thoreau took on a utopian experiment
built a cabin for himself at Walden Pond
Thoreau shared the spirit of resistance and experimentation that other Utopian Communities (i.e. Brook Farm) embodied
experiment in solitude, self-reflection & close observation of nature in order to find out "how to live" a more fulfilling "natural life" "live deeply and suck out all the marrow of life" Walden Thoreau's account of his two years at Walden pond
published in 1854
became a literary and environmental classic
spoke deeply to American readers who worried that life was sliding by
has remained "a challenge to a culture complacently awash in consumer goods and cowed into a pusillanimous conformity"
expanded greatly on Emerson's descriptions and philosophy
made the study, celebration, and preservation of nature one of the characteristics of transcendentalism The Legacy Transcendentalism as a movement was relatively brief
A longer, historical perspective, however, suggests a pervasive and continuing influence of Transcendentalist principles and goals in the shaping of American culture
Transcendentalists gave American culture its first distinctive literary voice, brought artistic endeavor and aesthetic appreciation into a more secure place in the culture, and advanced, on several fronts, the cause of human rights and social justice. Everything in the world, including human beings is a reflection of the Divine Soul
The physical facts of the natural world are a doorway to the spiritual or ideal world
People can use their intuition to behold God's spirit revealed in nature or in their own souls
Self-reliance and individualism must outweigh external authority and blind conformity to custom and tradition
Spontaneous feelings and intuition are superior to deliberate intellecutalism and rationality A nineteenth-century movement in the Romantic tradition, which held that every individual can reach ultimate truths through spiritual intuition, which transcends reason and seonsory experience Transcendentalism: Write down some important ideas/words as you listen to this song. What "big ideas" is it about?
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