Transcendentalism was an early philosophical, intellectual, and literary movement that thrived in New England in the nineteenth century. Transcendentalism was a collection of new ideas about literature, religion, and philosophy. It began as a squabble in the Unitarian church when intellectuals began questioning and reacting against many of the church’s orthodoxy ways regarding all of the aforementioned subjects: religion, culture, literature, social reform, and philosophy. They in turn developed their own faith focusing on the divinity of humanity and the innate world. Many of the Transcendentalists ideas were expressed heavily by Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essays such as “Nature”, “Self Reliance”, and also in his poems such as “The Rhodora.” Some may even go as far as to say that Emerson is the definite center of this movement.
“America’s national parks spring from an idea as radical as the Declaration of Independence: that the nation’s most magnificent and sacred places should be preserved, not for loyalty or the rich, but for everyones.” (Duncan, Dayton Title Page) From the thought of equality of all races to drive thru restaurants, America is a nation constructed by ideas and among the top is the idea of our national parks. National parks are one of the greatest ideas because they are the scripture of nature and teach visitors about history while preserving our treasured landscapes.
Why was Henry David Thoreau such a wonderful writer? He had many great qualities, but the most important were his devotion to nature and writing, his desire for independence, and his experiences he encountered throughout his life. Henry David Thoreau looked to nature as the basis of life and writing. He believed that nature is the reflection of inner spiritual reality. He spent his life in search of the essentials of reality and of experiences that would bring him close to these essentials.
Transcendentalism There are a lucky few in life that can simply speak their thoughts and captivate the mind. Many people, at the same point in time, stopped to ponder the same idea; Transcendentalism. Thanks to its in-depth philosophies Transcendentalism was a movement that affected mystics, writers, philosophers, and scientists such as Emanuel Swedenborg, and influenced literature, politics, and society even to this day. The transcendentalism movement elicited ideas and ways of life that transcendentalists believed all should follow. This happened in the late 1700’s and the 1800’s with Immanuel Kant being the chief influence.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was the leading American transcendentalist whose theories were a primary influence in transcendentalist thought and writing. Through the knowledge and direction of Ralph Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau also became leading scholars of their time by means of their influence on early American intellectual history and literature. “Transcendentalists were influenced by romanticism, particularly in the areas of self-examination, individualism, and the beauties of nature and humankind. Fixed by the Prospect of shaping the literary traditions of a new nation, the American Romantics tended to issue pronouncements about fundamentals, for example, the role of the artist in expressing, even creating, a national identity. Henry David Thoreau advocated American expression supported by Romantic-transcendentalist theories of organicism articulated by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The 1830s was a time of serious religious conflict. Many people, especially authors, had different opinions on how to find true spirituality. In the end, authors in America created Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism is a philosophical and literary movement that searches for individual truth through spiritual reflection, complete solitude, and a deep connection with nature. Because this was established by authors, many of them wrote different pieces reflecting and using the beliefs of Transcendentalism.
He believes that you must love your life because that is the only way you will be happy. In his conclusion, Thoreau states, "Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. (chapter 18, p217-218)" That applies to the people of today as much as the people of the 1800's and will apply to people in the future as well. Thoreau feels that everyone needs to find themselves and figure out what they want out of life.
Transcendental and Anti-Transcendental Movements During the New England Renaissance period of 1840-1855, literature underwent two very distinct movements known as Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism. Both movements were very influential and consisted of authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (Transcendentalist) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Anti-Transcendentalist). Concentrating their ideas on human nature and intuition, rather than on logic and reason, both these movements served as a flourishing revolt against previously accepted ideas. The Transcendental movement focused its ideas on the essential unity of creation, the pure goodness of humanity and in individual intuition as the highest source of knowledge, rather than sensory experience. Optimism dominated people's thoughts and was shown in the ideas of the Transcendentalists.
This way of viewing the novel presents a window into the past for biologists of today and allows the field to gain new insights through the writings of Thoreau, but what qualified him to give accurate information about the subject? Henry David Thoreau, even before attending Harvard, was a naturalist at heart. As a younger man, he read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature and afterwards was filled with the roaming thoughts of trees and animals. After finishing school, Thoreau worked for some time as a surveyor in Massachusetts (“Henry David Thoreau”). This line of work certainly affected the young man’s views on nature simply because he was out and about everyday viewing natural scenes and phenomenon firsthand and analyzing what he saw.
Romanticism and Rationalism Romanticism began in the mid-18th century and reached its height in the 19th century. The Romantic literature of the nineteenth century holds in its topics the ideals of the time period, concentrating on emotion, nature, and the expression of "nothing." The Romantic era was one that focused on the commonality of humankind and, while using emotion and nature; the poets and their works shed light on people's universal natures. Romanticism as a movement declined in the late 19th century and early 20th century with the growing dominance of Realism in the literature and the rapid advancement of science and technology. However, Romanticism was very impressionative on most individuals during its time.