Critical essays on american transcendentalism

Women are treated as dependents, however, and their self-reliant impulses are often held against them. What they most want, Fuller maintains, is the freedom to unfold their powers, a freedom necessary not only for their self-development, but for the renovation of society.

Such individuality is necessary in particular for the proper constitution of that form of society known as marriage. He also wrote a first draft of Walden , which eventually appeared in Thoreau is receptive. From the right perspective, Thoreau finds, he can possess and use a farm with more satisfaction than the farmer, who is preoccupied with feeding his family and expanding his operations. If Thoreau counsels simple frugality—a vegetarian diet for example, and a dirt floor—he also counsels a kind of extravagance, a spending of what you have in the day that shall never come again.

Thoreau lived at Walden for just under three years, a time during which he sometimes visited friends and conducted business in town. He values fishing and hunting for their taste of wildness, though he finds that in middle age he has given up eating meat. The wild is not always consoling or uplifting, however. Although Walden initiates the American tradition of environmental philosophy, it is equally concerned with reading and writing.

Thoreau suggests that Walden is or aspires to be such a book; and indeed the enduring construction from his time at Walden is not the cabin he built but the book he wrote. In his search for such closeness, he began to reconceive the nature of his journal. Both he and Emerson kept journals from which their published works were derived.

American Transcendentalism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The 16, Cherokees lived in what is now Kentucky and Tennessee, and in parts of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia. They were one of the more assimilated tribes, whose members owned property, drove carriages, used plows and spinning wheels, and even owned slaves. Wealthy Cherokees sent their children to elite academies or seminaries. Army into the Cherokee Nation, where they rounded up as many remaining members of the tribe as they could and marched them west and across the Mississippi. Thousands died along the way. Slavery had existed in the United States from the beginnings of the country, but the question of its morality and entrenchment within the American political system came to the fore with the annexation of Texas, where slavery was legal, and its admission to the Union as the 28th state in These men, our benefactors, … the producers of comfort and luxury for the civilized world.

Fuller addresses American slavery directly in Woman in the Nineteenth Century , recalling her dread at the news that James K.

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You see the men, how they are willing to sell shamelessly, the happiness of countless generations of fellow-creatures, the honor of their country, and their immortal souls for a money market and political power. Do you not feel within you that which can reprove them, which can check, which can convince them?


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Thoreau was arrested in for nonpayment of his poll tax, and he took the opportunity presented by his night in jail to meditate on the authority of the state. The citizen has no duty to resign his conscience to the state, and may even have a duty to oppose immoral legislation such as that which supports slavery and the Mexican War.

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For the law required all citizens of the country to assist in returning fugitive slaves to their owners. An immoral law, he holds, is void. Origins and Character 2. It is not a skeptical idealism, however, but an anti-skeptical idealism deriving from Kant: It is well known to most of my audience, that the Idealism of the present day acquired the name of Transcendental, from the use of that term by Immanuel Kant, of Konigsberg [sic], who replied to the skeptical philosophy of Locke, which insisted that there was nothing in the intellect which was not previously in the experience of the senses, by showing that there was a very important class of ideas, or imperative forms, which did not come by experience, but through which experience was acquired; that these were intuitions of the mind itself; and he denominated them Transcendental forms O, —2.

Reynolds ed. Norton and Co. Daniel Peck ed. Gilman, et al. Other Primary Sources: Buell, Lawrence. Spiller, et al. Reynolds and Susan Belasco Smith eds. Hochfield, George ed. Moldenhauer ed. Broderick, Elizabeth Hall Witherell, et al. Rosenbaum ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, Secondary Sources Andrews, Barry Maxwell, Buell, Lawrence, Cameron, Sharon, Cavell, Stanley, Clebsch, William, Dewey, John. Firkins, Oscar W. Friedl, Herwig, Reid eds.

Transcendentalism was a religious, literary, and political movement that evolved from New England Unitarianism in the s and s. An important expression of Romanticism in the United States, it is principally associated with the work of essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson; journalist and feminist theorist Margaret Fuller; Unitarian minister and antislavery advocate Theodore Parker; and essayist, naturalist, and political theorist Henry David Thoreau. 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.

They developed literary as well as theological forms of expression, making perhaps a stronger impact on American literary and artistic culture than they did on American religion. Emerson and Thoreau began to absorb the spiritual sensibility of Asian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, which were becoming available more widely in translation.

The transcendentalists also responded to the politically turbulent s and s, devoting themselves to issues of social reform. By the early s, following the outbreak of the Civil War, the transcendentalists had helped formulate the principles that would reshape American culture well into the 20th century.

Miller remains of continuing usefulness, but two recently completed histories of transcendentalism, Gura and Packer , are now the authoritative histories. Myerson traces the meetings of the Transcendental Club, in which members of the loosely organized group exchanged ideas and plans.

American Transcendentalism

Capper and Wright provides historically grounded perspectives on themes and authors in the movement. Taylor places key transcendentalists in an account of New England conceptions of American intellectualism. Cameron represents the extensive scholarly works of Kenneth Walter Cameron and has been particularly valuable for making little-known 19th-century materials available. Cameron, Kenneth Walter. New York: Haskell, Cameron was especially capable in recovering and reprinting sources for works of Emerson and Thoreau. For further information see the listing for Cameron at WorldCat.

Capper, Charles, and Conrad E. Wright, eds. These twenty essays drawn from a conference at the Massachusetts Historical Society constitute the best available compilation of scholarly essays on transcendentalism. The introductory essay by Charles Capper pp. Gura, Phillip F. American Transcendentalism: A History. New York: Hill and Wang, A history of transcendentalism as most importantly a social movement, one of a series of attempts to democratize American society more completely. Gura emphasizes the inherent tension between self-fulfillment and social change in transcendentalist thinking.

Hutchison, William R. Originally published in Hutchison focuses on the theological and ecclesiastical background of transcendentalism, noting the ministerial roles of Theodore Parker, George Ripley, and others, and describing their efforts to awaken and reform the New England Unitarian churches.

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Miller, Perry. The Transcendentalists: An Anthology. Myerson, Joel.