As a woman in the 19th century, the odds were against Margaret Fuller. Despite adversity, she became a literary scholar and icon for woman to strive to emulate for greatness. Margaret Fuller’s development as a writer marked the transformation of America. Through Fuller’s influence, a young country looking primarily to writers overseas for its literature became a more self-confident nation. Margaret Fuller was an American literary critic, feminist critic, social critic, essayist, poet, letter writer, and pioneer.
She is often considered the country’s first woman with a nationally positive reputation. Margaret Fuller’s intellect was further recognized by Ralph Waldo Emerson as being equivalent to the intelligence of a man. Therefore, it can be said that she paved the way for women to aspire to achieve success. By examining the literary works of Margaret Fuller, her writings plainly reflect American women as a whole and would be more affective to readers as a notable part in the English curriculum. Margaret Fuller was born on May 23, 1810, in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts.
She was the oldest of nine children born to Unitarian parents who raised her with strong discipline. As a result of her upbringing, Margaret Fuller became a high-strung child prodigy (Goodwin). Fuller’s combination of domestic and professional accomplishments is attributed to the education she received from her father, Timothy Fuller. This strict education gave her a special ability to analyze the strengths and limitations of both masculinity and femininity. Margaret Fuller became a teacher at the Bronson Alcott Temple School for women.
The Alcott School was a controversial place to learn at because the students were taught about integration and the social acceptance of others. Fuller was a revolutionary figure for women because it was illegal to teach women oral communication skills and to give them the insight to philosophize current situations in politics, the work place, and the home. She wanted women to become independent, creative thinkers. Fuller also joined Ralph Waldo Emerson and others to found the Dial. She served as the editor of The Dial for two years, then published her feminist classic, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, in 1845 (Goodwin).
By the time of her death in 1850 at age 40, in a shipwreck while returning to the United States in, Margaret Fuller had become a near legend for her courage, passionate political advocacy and unconventional lifestyle. Perhaps one of her most noted books, Women of the Nineteenth Century was the examination of men and women in America. Woman of the Nineteenth Century speaks out against the degradation and the slavery of women. Fuller wrote, “Tremble not before the free man, but the slave who has chains to break. In slavery… women are on a par with men.
Each is a work tool, an article of property, no more! In perfect freedom… in the heaven where there is no marrying or giving marriage, each [woman] is a purified intelligence, an enfranchised soul no less. ” (Fuller 29) The basis for Fuller’s essay is the idea that man will rightfully inherit the earth when he becomes an elevated being, understanding the idea of divine love. The essay describes her belief that man cannot find perfection because he is burdened with selfish desires. Fuller is optimistic and says that human kind, however imperfect, is on the verge of a new awakening.
She also argued that in comparison to men in Germany, America does not yet know how to properly treat women, made clear by the statement, “Germany did not need to learn a high view of women; it was inborn in that race. ” (Fuller 30) Margaret Fuller continues her thoughts by saying that Christian men emulate the way women are treated whether it be good or bad in accordance with the Bible. She claims that in the past man has always called for woman’s service, but soon will come the time when women will call for men and they will be equals and share divine love.
One of Fuller’s main arguments is that America has been hindered from reaching equality because it inherited depravity from Europe, hence its treatment of Native and African Americans. Fuller Expresses that those who infringe on others’ rights are condemned because man needs to practice divine love in order to feel it. The analysis of this essay proves Margaret Fuller’s worth as a feminist and transcendentalist who greatly influenced American literature. Her perspectives on the roles of women and men within humanity are a key point to this essay.
With these views, Fuller was a highly persuasive women’s activist that should be celebrated even in modern literature. Margaret Fuller concluded that in order to explore her beliefs and her life, she need to travel and experience spiritual discovery through transcendentalism. The need for spiritual discovery led to Fuller’s first original book-length work, the product of her journey through what was then considered the far western frontier in mid-nineteenth-century America.
This autobiography or travel log, Summer on the Lakes in 1843, occupies a pivotal position in Margaret Fuller’s development as a writer, a Transcendentalist, and a feminist. The book is a personal account of Fuller’s inner life during the summer of 1843 and is a portfolio of sketches, poems, stories, anecdotes, dialogues, reflections, and accounts of a leisurely journey to the Great Lakes. She shared with the Transcendentalists the belief that internal travel, or what Emerson called travel within the mind, was the most significant kind of journey.
Her travel away from New England to visit Niagara Falls, Mackinac Island, and Rock River, Illinois, is symbolic of a larger journey that Fuller was making in her spirituality and personal discovery. Drawing on historical sources, contemporary travel books, and her own firsthand experience of life on the prairie, Fuller used the opportunity of visiting the frontier to meditate on the state of her own life and of life in America. Critics often claim that this meditation, or exploration of life, is what ultimately led Fuller to become such an influential writer for women everywhere.
After the publication of Summer on the Lakes in 1843 the amount of women writers increased substantially. Margaret Fuller continued to write impressive works of literature that were influential within American culture. Life Within Life Without is about the exploration of transcendentalist ideas. One of the main ideas in the essay is the cultivation of the individual, which to Fuller, included women as well as men. Fuller claims that men and women can each live two lives; the outward life, passed in reading the thoughts of others, and the inward life that is the product of every person’s individual nature.
The essay applies the idea that the individual has the potential to enlighten all mankind. In this essay, Fuller expresses her belief that allowing women as individuals to have greater spiritual and intellectual freedom will advance the enlightenment of both men and women and, therefore, all of mankind. Each type of living, inward and outward, contributes to a person’s overall development in thought and action. Fuller argues that these two states affect the passions, affections , and aspirations of all people. Because Fuller was passionate about giving equal rights to both men and women, this ssay was controversial.
In later years, however, this essay became one of the foundations for the women’s rights movement, influencing women everywhere become involved in achieving equal rights. One of Margaret Fuller’s last works, Papers on Literature and Art, is a selection of works accumulated throughout her writing career. The papers contain some of Fuller’s earliest works as well as many of her later works and show the growth that she experienced through her writing over time. Along with these selections Fuller inserted segments of prose and verse.
Ben Jonson wrote, “Where ever she has herself arisen in private history, and nobly shone forth in any form of excellence, men have received her, not only willingly, but with triumph. Their encomiums indeed, are always, in some sense, mortifying; they show too much surprise. ‘Can this be you? ’, he cries to the transfigured Cinderella; well I should have never thought it but I am very glad. We will tell everyone that you have surpassed your sex. ” (Fuller-Ossoli) In response to Jonson’s comment, Fuller compiled the works that she had written up to that point and titled the compilation Papers on Literature and Art.
Fuller wanted to demonstrate the amount of progressive personal growth she had experienced through her work as a writer. The papers were an accumulation of Fuller’s writings that expressed her thoughts on everything from transcendentalism to feminism, her opinions, and her developing ideas. Margaret Fuller was an icon to many literary scholars and continues to have a great impact on female writers of the modern era. Her works are important to the feminine literary movement as well as the literary movement as a whole.
Any reader can learn from Margaret Fuller about personal growth, self discovery, and equality between all individuals. Fuller’s works were influential enough in society in her era, that they are best explored by the incorporation in English literature curriculums throughout America. Fullers influence extended to many women including women’s rights activists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Grace Greenwood, and Ida B. Wells. Through Fuller’s influence women such as these were able to push women’s American rights to the freedoms that modern women benefit from today.
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