Emerson, Thoreau, and Transcendentalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson and
What is Transcendentalism?
Transcendentalism was
a literary movement
that flourished during
the middle 19th Century
(1836 – 1860).
It began as a rebellion
against traditionally
held beliefs by the
English Church that
God superseded the
Core Beliefs of Transcendentalism
Finding its root in the
word “transcend,”
believed individuals
could transcend to a
higher being of existence
in nature.
God is located in the soul
of each individual.
Humanity’s potential is
Experience is valued over
The Founder of Transcendentalism:
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson’s Early Life
Born on Election Day in
1803 in Boston, MA.
Born on the same street
as the birth home of
Benjamin Franklin.
Father was a famous
minister who encouraged
young Ralph to pursue
philosophy at a young
Early Trials
Father passes away at age
8 and Emerson is left to
support his four other
Ralph was asked to share
a coat with his brother
Edward to save finances.
Despite the hardships, all
the Emerson boys, except
one, graduated from
Harvard University.
Teacher and Priest
• After graduation,
Emerson became a
school teacher in
suburban Boston.
• 1823 graduated from
seminary school and
became a priest to
follow in the
footsteps of his
Introduction to Transcendental
• In 1831 makes his
first trip to England
where he meets poets
Samuel Taylor
Coleridge and
William Wordsworth
who introduce him to
Romantic notions of
nature and
Transcendentalist Philosopher
Returns to Concord, MA
in 1835 and writes his
first important work
Nature which describes
how humans find God
within nature:
“In the woods is
perpetual youth… In the
woods we return to
reason and faith.”
Famous Lecturer
Emerson went on to
become a famous lecturer
sharing his transcendental
philosophy throughout
the country. Among his
quotable phrases:
“Trust thyself: every
heart vibrates to that iron
“To be great is to be
Late Life and Death
• Upset in the 1860s by
the coming of the
Civil War, lived a
quiet life with his
• His house burnt to the
ground in 1872.
• Died on April 27th,
Requirements of Transcendentalism
1. Worksheets on Emerson and Thoreau (25
points each)
2. Textbook study questions on Thoreau and
Emerson (10 points each)
3. Study Guide for “Dead Poet’s Society”
(50 points)
4. Transcendentalism Project PPT (75
Please stand for Think on Your Feet