Analysis of transcendentalism and its effects on american literature

Although the intensity of British regard for Emerson — strong in the nineteenth century — has waned, American interest in him continues to grow. In Nature, for example, Emerson writes: In their initial phase, the transcendentalists extended the Unitarian theological rebellion against Puritan Calvinism, moving toward a post-Christian spirituality that held each man and woman capable of spiritual development and fulfillment.

Do not reprint it without permission. Coupled with the growing unease over slavery and the economy, the intellectual climate simply no longer supported the high-minded idealism of the Transcendentalists.


It is consequently difficult to discuss Emerson's reputation and influence briefly, except in the most general terms. Church Reform in the New England Renaissance. Against Locke's claim that there is nothing in the mind not first put there through the senses, the Transcendentalists answer with Leibnitz, yes, nothing except the mind itself.

Any reader of German philosophy would then predict that through a long series of dialectical manipulations of abstract propositions the two turn out to be identical, two faces of the same unitary reality. The Unitarians used Locke both negatively, to undermine the orthodox Calvinist belief in original sin-if the mind is a blank slate at birth it cannot be innately depraved-and positively, to underwrite belief in the special dispensation of Christianity through the evidence of Jesus's miracles, sensory testimony of his spiritual power, the flesh testifying to the word.

The genesis of the movement can be accurately traced to and the first gathering of the Transcendental Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Origins and Character What we now know as transcendentalism first arose among the liberal New England Congregationalists, who departed from orthodox Calvinism in two respects: Emerson was a man of deep faith, though in his personal life he was struck down more than once by tragedy.

Both this privileging of direct experience over coherent system-building and this weighing of philosophical propositions not by their truth value but by how best they help us live were to be developed later in the century by William James and John Dewey in America's most crucial contribution to philosophy, Pragmatism.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was marginally associated with the movement, eventually developed distaste for their utopian idealism. The Transcendentalist vision went beyond Kant in insisting that the mind can apprehend absolute spiritual truths directly without having to go through the detour of the senses, without the dictates of past authorities and institutions, and without the plodding labor of ratiocination.

Kant asserted that humans must embrace the fact that some things cannot be known with certainty, no matter how advanced science and technology become. But if Emerson's importance has been widely recognized, few commentators have accepted all aspects of his work as valid, and some — even those who admit his tremendous appeal — have denied that he was a great writer of prose or poetry.

He wrote a satirical novel, The Blithedale Romancebased largely on his experience at Brook Farm, a Transcendentalist utopian commune. Norton's hostile criticism set off a volley of responses James Freeman Clarke noted in a review in The Western Messenger, "We perceive that our friends in Boston, and its vicinity, have been a good deal roused and excited by an address.

He reportedly turned down invitations to speak at abolitionist meetings. Emerson's writings are so encompassing that they have permitted a wide variety of approaches to their study and understanding. Clarke wrote of Emerson as "a man of pure and noble mind, of original genius and independent thought," and referred to Emerson as the center of a coterie: The belief that the young nation was fertile ground for a new and more enlightened kind of citizen was quite popular at the time.

Because Emerson's efforts straddled a number of disciplines — among them literature, philosophy, theology, psychology, education, and social commentary — critics and scholars have been anything but unified in assessing the nature of his most important contributions to American thought and letters.

At one pole, Emerson and Thoreau, who both declined to be Brook Farmers, felt that improvement must begin with the self, that many of the specific reforms rampant in Jacksonian America such as prohibition and vegetarianism were too narrowly conceived and that to engage in social and political action was to dissipate creative energies.

The roots of the philosophy go back to Germany, specifically the writings and theories of Immanuel Kant. A journal devoted to printing the work of prominent Transcendentalists, The Dial holds a place of high esteem in the history of American letters.

A journal has a sequence set by the days, but it may have no order; or what order it has emerges in the writer's life as he meets the life of nature. But the effect of perusal is often painful, the thoughts excited are frequently bewildering, and the results to which they lead us, uncertain and obscure.


Transcendentalists differed somewhat from the Romantics in that they ultimately wanted to effect change, both personally and globally. With some support from Emerson, Fuller was the main publisher behind The Dial, which ran from to Throughout his life, Emerson's thought and work generated mixed reactions — sometimes entirely positive or negative, but more often a combination of the two.

Society would grind to a halt were the whole world to go on leave. Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century, centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Other important transcendentalists were Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Amos Bronson. Although Transcendentalism in its proper sense did not last much into the s, American literature as a whole saw a revival that may not have been possible without the inspiration of.

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During its short lifespan from the mids to the late s, Transcendentalism seemed to pose no real threat to the social and political institutions it opposed. The Transcendental movement was composed of a small group of intellectuals, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David.

The author explains that American literature found its base on the pillars of colonialism. The romantic period in American literature initiated prior to the outbreak of the civil war and continued during the outbreak years as well. Running head: LITERARY ANALYSIS Literary Analysis Sergio Scott Grand Canyon University ENG American Literature II Susan Crannell September 28, Sergio Scott Susan Crannell ENG September 29, Literary Analysis Naturalism was a literary movement that .

Analysis of transcendentalism and its effects on american literature
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Transcendentalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)