Transcendentalism PPT

Tenets of Transcendentalism
To be great is to be
America: coming of age
Landscape and culture were developing and finding a
place in a literature distinct from European models
This literary period is often described as a renaissance
or rebirth (in comparison to the European Renaissance
of the 14th-16th centuries) because of the cultural
development between 1840-1860.
Social improvement:
New England was
experiencing a
period/movement of selfimprovement and intellectual
inquiry called Lyceum.
Goals of this movement:
training teachers, establishing
museums, and instituting
social reforms.
Emerson provided a series of
lectures on selfimprovement. Emerson’s
utopian group became
known as “The
Transcendental Club”.
Many utopian projects were
created in an attempt to
perfect society. Utopia = ideal
and perfect state
Moral law had to be adhered
to, in order’ to satisfy all
man’s individual and
collective needs”
Against ideas of Manifest
What does Transcendentalism
► Definition:
determining the
ultimate reality of God,
the universe, the self
and other important
matters, one must
transcend, or go
beyond, everyday
human experience in
the physical world.
Where does Transcendentalism
come from?
The term transcendental came from 18th century German
philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Transcendentalism originated from the past idea of Idealism
(created by Greek philosopher Plato in 4th century BC).
Idealism=true reality involved ideas rather than the world
perceived by the senses. They wanted to look past physical
appearances to see permanent reality and truth.
Transcendentalists were Idealists in a broader, more practical
sense. They believed in human perfectibility as an achievable
goal and worked to achieve it.
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
which hold important
People can use their
intuition to behold
God’s spirit revealed
in nature or their own
 Spontaneous feelings
and intuition are
superior to deliberate
intellectualism and
Most well-known
Transcendentalist authors:
 Ralph Waldo
Emerson and Henry
David Thoreau
The most famous Transcendentalist…
Ralph Waldo Emerson
 Emerson was the best-known
and most influential
 Puritan thought (God revealed
himself through the Bible and
the physical world)
 And the Romantic tradition
 He viewed the world based on
intuition - the capacity to know
things spontaneously and
immediately through our
emotions rather than through
reason and logic.
 He possessed an intense
feeling of optimism that
stemmed from the belief that
God could be found directly
through nature (even tragic
natural events such as death,
disaster and disease).
Emerson’s beliefs continued…
 God is good and works through nature.
 Death, disease and disasters have a spiritual
 Evil stems from a separation from a direct,
intuitive knowledge of God.
 One must know God directly to realize that they
are a part of the Divine Soul (universe), which is
the source of all good.
 The optimism of Emerson and transcendentalism
was appealing because of what was happening
in society at the time: economic downturns,
regional strife, conflict over slavery.
The appeal of Emerson’s optimism and
transcendentalism was a result of what
was happening in society at the time:
economic downturns, regional strife,
conflict over slavery.
Great Minds
Alcott and the Temple School –
elementary school that stressed children’s
innate divinity and encouraged its early
 Peabody – Kindergarten movement in U.S.
 Orestes Brownson – improving conditions
of working class
 Brook Farm Institute of Agric. And
Educ./communal living
Fruitlands experiment in Harvard, Mass. –
Vegetarian living
 Women’s rights – Margaret Fuller
 Impoverished, mentally and phy
challenged, imprisoned, institutionalized,
enslaved – equals in spirituality/demanded
reformation of asylums/prisons
 Fought against the Fugitive Slave Law
What became of the Movement?
Emerson died in 1882
 Focus became Individualism/individual
rights – “deification of the individual”
 Market capitalism,not humanitarian reform
 Samuel Osgood said, “The sect of
Transcendentalists has disappeared
because their light has gone everywhere.”
In review . . .
An individual is the _____center of the
 All knowledge begins with _______.
 Transcendentalism is a form of ________.
 The human soul is part of the _________
 God can be found ___________.
 The whole world is a _________.
 We must concern ourselves with
Evil is merely the absence of ______; light
is more powerful than darkness, as one
ray of light penetrates the dark.
 Emphasis on self-________ and human
 One must have faith in __________.
 True reform comes from _________.
 It is foolish to worry about being ______.
Thoreau historically through
Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance against the
British government in South Africa
 Civil rights
– “I do not wish to kill or be killed, but I can
foresee circumstances in which both these
things would be by me unavoidable.” (In
defense of John Brown’s slavery
revolt/connection with No. abolitionists)
Vietnam war protestors
– “Only the defeated and deserters go to the
wars, cowards that run away and enlist.”
– “Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.”
Wall Street
 Environmental groups (Lorax)