Unit 4: American
5 Major Writers
 Praise American writers
 Melville—defended American writers
 Unlikely friendship with Hawthorne
 Webster “America must be as individual in literature as she
is in politics, as famous for arts as for arms.”
 Similar to the European Renaissance
 Mark of cultural maturity
 Lyceum Movement
 Emerson—most famous and popular
of the lecture series
 My (Ms. Howard’s) experiences with lecture series
 1991--Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Desmond Tutu, Louis Farrakhan
 Late 1990s—Kurt Vonnegut, Maya Angelou
 2000s-present—Chicago Humanities Festival, County-Wide Institutes
 American Romanticism (unit we are skipping)
 Movement began in Europe & developed distinct
American char. out of colonial past & development
of new nation.
 2 principle ways in which Romantic sensibility
sought to rise above “dull realities”:
 Exploring exotic settings—past & present
 Contemplating natural world
 James Fennimore Cooper—The Last of the
Mohicans, Washington Irving--Rip Van Winkle,
William Cullen Bryant—Thanatopsis
 Made way for Poe, Hawthorne, Melville
Intro: Reform Movements
 Education--Horace Mann
 Insane asylum conditions--Dorothea Dix
 Abolitionist--William Lloyd Garrison
 Women’s Rights
 Elizabeth Palmer Peabody
 Margaret Fuller
 Frances Willard
 Emmanual Kant
 Word referred to the idea that matters of the
ultimate reality—God, Cosmos, & self—
transcend/go beyond human experience.
 Club Members
 George Ripley (minister)
 Bronson Alcott (educator)
 Margaret Fuller (feminist)
 Transcendentalists sought to create religious
consciousness--exhibit freedom & democracy
of new nation. Way to God led through the self:
contemplation of one’s own thought would lead
one to a perception of the infinite.
 Emerson—central Transcendentalist
 contemplates his own mind
 Thoreau—protégé of Emerson
 Search for the ecstatic experience
in nature
Basic Premises:
1. Individual=spiritual center of universe
In an individual can be found the clue to nature, history &
ultimately, the cosmos itself.
Not a rejection of the existence of God, but a preference to
explain an individual & the world in terms of an individual.
2. Structure of universe duplicates structure of
individual self - all knowledge, therefore, begins with
self-knowledge. (Similar to Aristotle's dictum "know thyself”)
3. Accepted the neo-Platonic idea of nature as a living
mystery, full of signs/symbolic.
4. Belief that individual virtue & happiness depend upon
 Transcendentalism was a
1. Spiritual,
2. philosophical , and
3. literary movement and is located in the history
of American Thought as:
(a) Post-Unitarian& free thinking in religious spirituality
(b) Kantian and idealistic in philosophy and
(c) Romantic and individualistic in literature.
A Brief Chronology of Events
 Emerson resigns ministry of Unitarian Church-unable to
administer holy communion.
1836 The annus mirabilis (year of wonder) of the movement
 Emerson published Nature ("gospel" of transcendentalism)
 George Ripley published Discourses on the Philosophy of Religion
 Bronson Alcott published Record of Conversions in the Gospel
(classroom discussions in his Temple School, Boston--severe criticism)
 Transcendental Club met for 1st time.
 Emerson delivers his Phi Beta Kappa address on "The
American Scholar" at Harvard (James Russell Lowell called "an event
without former parallel in our literary annals.”)
A Brief Chronology of Events
1838 Emerson delivers his Divinity School Address at Harvard
which touched off a great storm in religious circles.
1840 Founding of the Dial, a Transcendental magazine,
1841 George Ripley's Brook Farm - a utopian experiment.
Hawthorne wrote The Blithedale Romance based upon
experience there.
1842 Alcott's utopian experiment at Fruitlands.
1845 Thoreau goes to live at Walden Pond.
1846 Thoreau is put in jail for his refusal to pay poll tax.
1850 Passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. Transcendentalists
increasingly involved in abolition of slavery.
1855 Walt Whitman publishes his Leaves of Grass.
1859 Charles Darwin's Origin of Species is published.
1862 Henry David Thoreau dies.
Key Concepts & Connections
 Well educated people--live in the decades before
American Civil War & national division that it reflected
& helped to create.
 Mostly New Englanders, around Boston, attempt to
create a uniquely American body of literature.
 Time for literary independence--deliberately went
about creating literature, essays, novels, philosophy,
poetry & other writing that are clearly different from
anything from England, France, Germany, or any
European nation.
· Slavery
With the end of slavery came unity betw. the races
after a long period of time
· Independence from England
With independence came new religion
· American Civil War
With the war came unity betw. the states after a
long period of time
· Trends in Transcendentalism
brought about unity, nature, and religion, and
creative expression.
5 Major Writers of the
 Coming off of the Romantic Period
 Thoreau—elevating the humdrum to the level of
meditative bliss
 Poe—emotion of love (lost love) is a catalyst to
 Hawthorne—Guilt/sin…male/female
 Melville—obsession.
Fictional Writers
 3 fictional writers—none embraced
Transcendentalism, but all 3 showed its influence
 Poe (Anxiety)—expressed scorn for the
movement, but an essay concludes that God is
reflected in the human mind.
 Hawthorne (Guilt)—lived in a utopian community
(Brook Farm)
 Melville—mocked movement, but Ahab comes
close to the Transcendental experience
Emerson, “Nature”
 Emerson’s beliefs:
 1. God is always near to us and reveals
Himself everywhere and at all times.
 2. w/in the individual lies a divinity that
allows human intuition to behold God’s spirit
in nature.
 3. Correspondence betw. Natural law and
moral law—w/intuition, humans can see
God’s laws.
Emerson, “Nature”
 Paradoxes, p. 191
 1. I am not solitary while I read and write,
though nobody is with me.
 2. But every night come out these envoys of
beauty, and light the universe w/ their
admonishing smile.
 3. Most persons do not see the sun.
 4. I am glad to the brink of fear
What is the paradox and what does Emerson mean?
Emerson, “Nature”
 “To speak truly, few adults can see nature”(191)
?--Do you agree with this statement?
 “Standing on the bare ground—my head bathed
by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite
space—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a
transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the
currents of the Universal Being circulate
through me; I am part or parcel of God.
?--Do you find this statement contradictory?
Emerson, “Nature”
 Emerson’s view of nature was at least partly the
result of his background—upper class.
?--Why would this be?
Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
 Individualism=American character—
nonconformity and self-reliance in the individual
mind calls upon us to express ourselves
?--What does Emerson mean by “this sculpture in
the memory”? (194).
 “We but half express ourselves, and are
ashamed of that divine idea which each of us
?--Do you agree that people only half express
themselves? What examples can you cite?
Emerson, “Self Reliance”
 “Accept the place the divine Providence has
found for you; the society of your
contemporaries, the connection of events”
 “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little
minds, adored by little statesmen and
philosophers and divines” (194).
?--What is Emerson’s metaphor in each of these
Emerson, “Concord Hymn”
 Occasional poetry
 1st stanza—recalls events of April 1775 and
praises heroic spirit of “embattled farmers”
 2nd stanza—both foe and conqueror are dead
and that the bridge is now gone.
 3rd stanza—Occasion=dedication of a stone
marker to the memory of these men of Concord
 4th Stanza—asks God to see that time and
nature protect the marker
Emerson, “Concord Hymn”
 Scan the poem using these 3 areas…
 Rhythm
By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled
 Rhyme
Emerson, “Concord Hymn”
 Scan the poem using these 3 areas…
 Rhythm
By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled
 Rhyme
Transcendentalism Mini Experience
 SILENCE…this is the #1 rule and MUST be followed!
 SILENCE will add to the experience
(and allow us to continue this assignment in the future).
 Bring your notebook to the courtyard and find a small
area to describe in DETAIL. Could be a…
 1’x1’ square of the ground
 Man-made object—bench, marker, walkway, building
 Natural area—pond (although man-made), tree, nest, tall
grass… (Don’t be an idiot & step on the pond! Not frozen!)
 When I give you the signal, come back to the room in
SILENCE (after wiping your feet on towels)!
Transcendentalism Mini Experience
 How did SILENCE add to your experience?
 What did you see?
 What did you hear?
 What did you feel—physically and emotionally?
 For homework, please write a description of your
experience… (Type it or write it out neatly and decorate page
to fit your writing.)
 HAIKU (5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables)
 Sonnet (English) 3 quatrains of alternating rhyme and a
couplet: a b a b / c d c d / e f e f / g g
 Prose
Thoreau, “Walden”
?--What are Thoreau’s facts of life?
 Constant allusions to Greek Myth--Troy, Iliad
 Metaphorical style—Loons and hunters, red
ants and black ants
 Expository: series of main ideas supported by
details, such as facts, examples, and stats
 Think about the ex. he uses for :
 Thoreau’s house did not cost much money.
 People can grow enough food for themselves on a
small piece of land.
Thoreau, “Walden”
 From “Economy”
 Construction of house and garden-”stripped down
 ?--Imagine that the avg. contemporary homeowner
presents, alongside Thoreau’s, a list of his/her
expenses for home improvement during a year.
Which one would grab us more? Why should there
be such emotional difference betw. 2 simple lists?
 ?--Why does Thoreau believe that he did better w/
his small profit than any other farmer in Concord?
Thoreau, “Walden”
 From “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”
 Live “deliberately” and “front only the essential facts
of life”
 “Simplify, simplify” one of Thoreau’s most famous
aphorisms (212)
From “Solitude:
 Minds rather than space is what separated people.
 ?—Do you agree?
From “The Bean-Field”
 describes his planting and hoeing on beans and
his battle against weeks, using Greek Myth
 “I was determined to know beans” (He doesn’t know beans
about it.)
Thoreau, “Walden”
 From “Brute Neighbors”
 Human warfare//black ants vs. red ants and the
loons vs. hunters
 ?--Are Thoreau’s sympathies with the Loon or the
hunter? How can you tell?
Thoreau, “Resistance to
Civil Government”
 Th. Was arrested because he refused, on principle, to
pay a pay to the state because he was opposed to the
gov’t support of slavery.”
?--What leaders in history have used the idea of civil
 Would Th’s idea “That gov’t is best which governs not
at all” be workable in a complex society? (221)
 “The only obligation which I have a right to assume, is
to do at any time what I think right…” How can a
balance be created betw. The will of the maj. And the
rights of the min.? What would happen if we did what
we thought was right? (221)
Thoreau, “Resistance to
Civil Government”
 Last par. On p. 221—Th. Makes a distinction:
We don’t have to oppose wrongdoing actively,
but we have to engage in it.
?--How does this fit in with other aspects of his
personality you know about?
?--What one person symbolizes the gov’t for Th.?
 The idea that a single righteous person, or a
small group of such person, can redeem a
whole society has strong Biblical echoes.
Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil
 P. 223 last par. Of 1st column—Th. Is saying that his
one night in jail, while not changind either him or the
town physically, has changed his was of seeing.
 P 223 last sent.—irony
?--What does the unawareness regarding a jail say
about Th’s townspeople?
 Last par. Is the central exposition of Th’s political
ideas in this essay…
 “The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy…”
 “There will never be a really free and enlightened state…”
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
 American poet, critic, short story writer
 Genres of horror & science fiction
considered father of modern detective story.
 Psychologically thrilling tales examining
depths of human psyche
 Own life marred by tragedy--parents died before 3
 darkly passionate sensibilities—tormented &
sometimes neurotic obsession w/ death & violence
& appreciation for beautiful yet tragic life mysteries.
 Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2006.
All Rights Reserved.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
 Edgar Poe born on 19 January 1809 in Boston, MA
 Son of actors Elizabeth Hopkins & David Poe
 After death of parents Edgar was taken in by Frances
& John Allan, wealthy merchant in Richmond, VA.
 1820, attended U. of Virginia & studied Latin & poetry
 Estranged from foster father after accumulating
gambling debts. Unable to pay debts or support
himself, left school & enlisted in US Army for 2 yrs.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
 1827 “Dreams” 1st appeared in Baltimore North
American & 1st book Tamerlane & Other Poems
published at own expense.
 Poe enlisted in West Point—
dismissed a year later.
 moved to Baltimore to live w/aunt
Maria Clemm, mother of Virginia
Clemm-became his wife at 13.
 1835 became editor & contributor of Southern Literary
Messenger-start of career as respected critic & essayist.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
 Virginia & Edgar married-Richmond 1836, moved to NYC.
 Poe’s only completed novel The Narrative of Arthur
Gordon Pym published in 1838.
 Published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
(1840) included what some consider the 1st detective
story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
 The Raven and Other Poems (1845) gained attention
at home & abroad“The Raven” “Eulalie” & “To Helen”
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
 Virginia died in 1847.
 Poe turned to alcohol more frequently & displayed
increasingly erratic behavior.
 1 yr later became engaged to teenage
Richmond sweetheart, Elmira Royster.
 1849 embarked on tour of
poetry readings & lecturing,
hoping to raise funds to start The Stylus magazine
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
 Conflicting accounts of last days & cause of death:
 Died from alcoholism, murdered, various diseases attributed
 Most say he was found unconscious in street & admitted to
Washington College Hospital, Baltimore
 Died 7 October 1849-buried in unmarked grave in Old
Westminster Burying Ground, Baltimore.
 On this original site now stands
a stone with a carving of a raven
& the inscription:
Quoth the Raven, Nevermore
Original Burial Place of Edgar Allan Poe
From October 9, 1849 Until November 17, 1875
 The mysterious Poe Toaster visits Poe’s grave on his
birthdays & leaves a bottle of cognac & 3 roses.
Poe “The Masque of the Red Death”
 Rhythm/Meter, end rhyme
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
 Prince Prospero & guests-names & who they think they are?
 Significant Techniques: unity of effect, tone, allegory, colors,
life/death images
 Prince Prospero’s palace, probably in southern Europe in 16th
or 17th C.
 Death-inescapable regardless of stature in society
The Fall of the House of Usher
Edgar Allan Poe
•1st published in 1839 in Burton’s Gentleman’s
•Themes of sanity, death, and fate
Fall of the House of Usher
Department of Diagnostic Medicine
1. Doctor Groups
2. List of symptoms of Roderick & possibly Madeline
3. Look up symptoms & gather possible diagnosis
(Limit 2 texts per group at one time!)
4. Decide on a diagnosis and possible causes…
Suggested passages for review:
 P. 236—Family Tree
 P. 240—Poem “The Haunted Palace”
 P. 241—What does Roderick think?
Writing Style
 Atmospheric language=1st paragraph
 Imagery to describe The House of Usher & surroundings
 Antiquated & poetic diction even in Poe’s time
 Poe relies on description rather than dramatization—
telling us rather than showing us what Roderick is
 The narrator, Roderick Usher, Madeline Usher
 1st person narration
 Poe anticipates abstract painting more than ½ C.
before it appears on any real canvas. p. 240
THE Family
 Family=House is an allegory p. 240
 Usher family end of the line=end of the house
 Roderick believes house to be alive and destroying him and
his family p.241
 Line of descent? Each generation of Ushers has only one
son to carry on the family name… p.236
 Narrator falls prey to Roderick’s madness p.242
 Pathetic fallacy p. 243
 Premature burial p. 245
 Does Roderick make a mistake?
Poe, “Fall of the House of
 “The Haunted Palace”
 What happened to the palace?
 What was the connection betw. palace & family?
 Could place be a symbol for family who lives there?
 How could the type of dwelling give insight into the
character of the inhabitants?
 What kinds of things could happen to a family to
take such a drastic turn?
 Poem parallels what happens in the story
Poe, “Fall of the House of Usher”
 How do senses establish tone?
 Provide examples of physical structures,
relationships, and stories that failed due to
faulty foundations.
 How is a strong foundation necessary for both
construction projects and for stories and works
of literature?
Poe, “The Raven”
 Compare to Simpson’s version
 Background—
1st bird was an owl (Athena—wisdom)
Similar to Dicken’s Barnaby Rudge’s raven
Lenore—Elmyra Royster or Virginia Clemm
Paid $10 in 1/29/1848 in NY Evening Post
1929 sold at auction for $100,000
 Rhythm—trochaic octometer
 Rhyme—ababbb
 Significant Techniques
 Alliteration, rhyme, repetition, tone, symbolism, narrative
verse, dashes
Herman Melville
 1819-1891 in NYC
Genres: Short stories, novels, poetry,
adventure fiction
 Gathered fame, especially for Moby-Dick--one of the few
American books recognized as a world classic
 overshadowed considerable achievement of his other works
 Much of what he wrote was autobiographical—
psychological & intellectual history w/his
responses to 19 C. American culture.
 Moby-Dick less successful when published,
began to gather fame a generation after
death & today recognized as work of genius.
Herman Melville
 Father from colorful & substantial Boston family.
 Died in 1832 of sudden illness--included mental collapse, &
left widow in poverty-dependent upon well-off kin.
 Father's death brought end to his childhood.
 At 12 forced to leave Albany Academy to work as bank clerk.
 Would educate himself & drift from 1 thing to another.
 Tried going west-1840 was back in NY but still unsettled.
 Went to sea. Narratives of wanderings in Polynesia & life
on whaling ships, in the merchant marine, & US Navy.
 After returning to land, books grew to be inside narratives,
the voyages of a mental traveler.
Herman Melville
 Melville admirer of Hawthorne.
 Like Shakespeare, Hawthorne "probes
the very axis of reality," & knew "the great
Art of Telling the Truth."
 Hawthorne’s grasp of Puritanism awed Melville.
 Began an important literary friendship.
 1866 Melville began working at customhouse in NY.
 The customhouse was notoriously corrupt
 Called his "silent period," phrase also applied to similar time
in Hawthorne’s life.
 Hawthorne emerged from customhouse to take his
place in literary community; Melville withdrew into it.
Herman Melville
 Great achievement of Melville's later years, Billy Budd
 Origins-controversial Somers case-Melville's cousin
Lieutenant Gansevoort-member of ad hoc officers' council
 advised hanging at sea a midshipman accused of mutiny
whose memorable parting words were "God bless the flag.“
 Unfinished when he died in September 1891 of heart failure
 Few respectful obituaries written-outlived his renown.
 1920s remarkable new interest in Melville's works
 growing interest in myth & psychology (Freud)
 disillusion & questioning following WWI
 national maturity-reexamination of literary past.
Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener”
 1st published anonymously in 1853 in Nov. & Dec.
issues of Putnam’s Monthly
 Reprinted in 1856 in The Piazza Tales
 Not again until 1922
 Melville had many relatives who might have been the
model for the attorney—narrator
 Several allusions to actual persons, places, & events
 John Jacob Astor
 Murder of Samuel Adams by John C. Colt in 1842
 Streets of the city & prison known as the Tombs
Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener”
 20th C. shift in criticism from Bartleby to his employer
who is trying to come to terms w/moral & ethical
problem posed by the scrivener’s refusal to work
 manages to reveal more of his own character to the reader
than he does that of Bartleby.
 Central symbol=“dead brick wall” duplicated in The

Unit 4 Renaissance Literature Final4