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• Disclaimer: The following is a brief introduction to the philosophical and literary movement of Transcendentalism, one of the many genres/movements that we will study in this class. I am not indicating that these are my beliefs, nor that you need to believe and adhere to these principles. The sole aim of this presentation is to teach you about the transcendental movement, to add to the body of literary content knowledge that you will take with you to college and/or into the real world.
TRANSCENDENTALISM Transcend: (verb) to rise above or go beyond; exceed. Transcendentalism is easy to identify, yet hard to define. That being said, here is a definition: • A literary and philosophical movement celebrating individuality, self-reliance, and the awesome wonders of nature. – The transcendentalists turned to nature and intuition to transcend reality and achieve a higher state of consciousness.
ORIGINS • Transcendentalism evolved from many sources including: – British Romanticism – The German Philosopher Immanuel Kant – The Greek Philosopher Plato – The French Mathematician Pascal – The Swedish Mystic and Scientist Swedenborg – Buddhist thought
Background 1830’s—The Industrial Revolution • Machines were taking the place of people! • Societal “progress, ” not the individual, was important. • Nature was pushed to the wayside in favor of the mechanized world.
The Transcendentalists said, “NO!!!” • The individual is important! • Nature must be observed and celebrated, as it reveals the answers to all of life’s questions. The two most famous Transcendalists are: Ralph Waldo Emerson & Henry David Thoreau
Basic Principles • The most fundamental “Real” truths of life lie outside the experience of the senses. They reside in the “Over-Soul. ” • Through intuition, not rational analysis, unite the individual psyche or “Atman, ” with the world psyche, (the “Over-soul” or “Brahma”). – Paradox: • Every soul and all of nature is part of the “Over-Soul, ” a universal spirit. • Every soul is a microcosm of the world itself.
Principles (Continued) • The human mind is the most powerful force in the universe. (not machines!) • The structure of the universe duplicates the structure of the individual self. – All knowledge, therefore, begins with self-knowledge. – Aristotle: “Know thyself. ” • Strive to achieve a paradoxical state of transcendent consciousness: – Embrace the world; know and become one with the world. – remain unique, self reliant, and separate from the world.
Some Transcendental Thoughts: • Look to the natural world for guidance and understanding. • Become a transparent eyeball: see everything. • Be independent and self-reliant. • Be unique: March to the beat of a different drummer.
Transcendental Thoughts (continued) • Simplify, Simplify. • Do not be afraid to be misunderstood. • Live life to its fullest. • Be optimistic: “The sun is but a morning star” (Thoreau).
Whenever writers celebrate the individual, whenever they look to the natural world for understanding, whenever they state that there is more to life than the reality around us, they owe a debt to the transcendentalists!
1. Transcend means to: A. Go below B. Rise above C. Go through D. Go across 2. Transcendentalism was a response to: A. The American revolution B. The equal rights movement C. the Modernist movement D. the industrial revolution 3. In transcendentalism, Nature is: A. celebrated B. deemphasized C. ignored D. created 4. Transcendentalism encourages A. individuality B. industrial progress C. rational thought D. adding layers of complexity to one’s life. 5. According to the transcendentalists, the most powerful force in the universe is: A. nature B. all of humanity working together C. the human mind D. the black hole 6. According to the transcendentalists, every soul and all of nature is part of the: A. Utopia B. Central Eye C. Metamorphosis D. Over-Soul 7. Which of the following is not a transcendental thought: A. Above all else, forgive B. Simplify, simplify March to the beat of a different drummer D. Be self-reliant BONUS: What is the name of the pond that Thoreau built his cabin beside? C.