Transcendentalism Essay Examples

Transcendentalism essay samples

Transcendentalist philosophies are present in the postmodern films, such as Joe Versus the Volcano. Transcendentalism was a religious, philosophical, and literary movement that arose in New England in the nineteenth century. It began as a religious concept rooted in the ideas of American democracy. It taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were central figures of this movement. Emerson served as the pastor of the Old North Church in Boston but left after three years. He came to believe that humans had wisdom in them already and that worship shouldn’t be constrained to church. Thoreau wrote daily about his observations in nature which helped him come to believe in divine purpose and spirituality in nature. Elements of Transcendentalism, established in the works of Emerson and Thoreau, are apparent in Postmodern film and demonstrated through the concepts of divine purpose, spirituality found in nature versus conformity of society, and freedom of the mind.

A History of the Transcendentalism Movement in Philosophy
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For the transcendentalist, the "I" transcends the corporeal and yet nature is the embodiment of the transcendence and, or, the means to achieving transcendence, which gives way to a belief that the physical "T" is at the root of all transcendence. In practical terms, the transcendentalist is occupied with the natural over the synthetic (though it is doubtful that either Kant or Emerson would have couched it in those terms) and determines value as it relates to the individual. Among…...
Transcendentalism
An Analysis of Henry David Thoreau’s’ Life and Views as a Transcendentalist
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Fuller, Randall, “Natural History: Thoreau's Debt to Darwin" Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts. He was an American poet, essayist, philosopher, naturalist, and transcendentalist. As a transcendentalist, he thought that reality existed only in the spiritual world, and the solution to people's problems was the free development of emotion (Fuller). The article 1 starts by telling the reader about a dream that Thoreau was having about two ungovernable horses. Fuller uses the dream about…...
Henry David ThoreauTranscendentalism
The essay is about Transcendental themes in the movie “Dead Poets Society.”
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The movie "The Dead Poets Society" is about a group of private school boys in the North East. They encounter a teacher, Mr. Keating, whom is a little different than most teachers. He wanted to instill the motivation to look past what society was telling them to do rather than teach the normal curriculum. He used Thoreau's ideas on transcendentalism by showing them to transcend or go beyond the rules that society poses and create their own independence. Mr. Keating…...
MovieRalph Waldo EmersonSocietyTranscendentalism
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Transcendendalist theories and beliefs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau, transcendentalism today
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In the world of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "nothing is more simple than greatness, to be simple is to be great". Emerson believed in simplifying life, he believed that the less possessions a person had the less they had to worry about. He developed a new and creative way of philosophy titled transcendentalism. Transcendentalism dealt with finding joy in nature, simplicity, and individualism. Simplicity is the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded. Simplifying life cuts back on stress and worries.…...
BeliefMetaphysicsRalph Waldo EmersonTheoriesTranscendentalism
Indian Thought in Emerson Thoreau and Whitman
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VEDANTA philosophy was one of several thought currents from abroad that reached New England in the early decades of the 19th century and contributed to the thinking of Emerson and Thoreau. Emerson’s interest in the sacred writings of the East probably began: . ring his Harvard days and continued throughout his life. He knew Laws of Manu, Vishnupurana, the Bhagvad- Gita, and Katha Upanishad: There are numerous references to these scriptures in his Journals and Essays. Thoreau, too, was introduced…...
Henry David ThoreauHinduismIndiaRalph Waldo EmersonThoughtTranscendentalism
The Original and the Modern Transcendentalists
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The transcendentalist Emerson, Longfellow, and Thoreau in the 1850’s in Massachusetts did not like modernization, science, and technology. But they did believe in nonconformity, self-reliance, and confidence. These transcendentalist believed in nonconformity and confidence. An example modernization in our world can be found in the song “Soundtrack to my life”, by KiD CuDi and in another song “Drop the World”, by Lil Wayne. In Emerson’s nonconformists quote, “but if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars”,…...
Philosophical TheoriesPhilosophyTranscendentalism
Self-Reliance and transcendentalism and how they relate to modern day life
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Many individuals in our world are frequently attempting to be self-reliant; trying to make it on their own and be original in idea and true to themselves. Much of those people end up conforming and doing what has actually been done in the past. They end up walking down the worn path that many have actually strolled before. However, a popular author called Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that you require to venture off the main course and explore brand-new concepts…...
Ralph Waldo EmersonTranscendentalism
Anti Transcendentalism in the Literary Works of Edgar Allan Poe 1
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Anti-Transcendentalism in the Work of Edgar Allan Poe Life and death are concepts that are widely known by men and women of all cultures. Many pieces of literature are written about these topics since they are well known but not everyone understands the meaning of living and dying. Death seems to be the tougher of these two concepts to be discussed. This is most likely due to the fact that once a person dies they are gone forever. While many…...
Edgar Allan PoeThe Masque Of The Red DeathThe RavenTranscendentalismWork
Romanticism: Transcendentalism and Henry David Thoreau
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The Romantic Era followed the Age of Reason. While the Age of Reason involved emphasis on science and rational thinking, Romanticism was the exact opposite. Romantics valued feeling and intuition over reason. They recognized the worth of the individual, and praised beauty, imagination, and innocence. Some of these writers were Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. Through this paper the writer intends to present the reasons that these three authors are considered Romantic writers. Margaret Fuller demonstrated…...
Henry David ThoreauRalph Waldo EmersonRomanticismTranscendentalismWalden
Puritanism and Transcendentalism
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American literature is characterized by several genres of literature which represent many different phases in American history and culture.  Among these are Puritanism and Transcendentalism.  These two movements share certain characteristics while they oppose each other for other reasons. The Puritans were a group of individuals that were very strict, radical Protestants that gathered as a type of religion after the Reformation in England.  They came to American for the freedom to practice this type of religion.  Writers of the…...
Anne BradstreetReligionTranscendentalism
Transcendantalism
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Back in the 1800's, people trusted in their innersoul. it was called transcendentalism. People like Emerson and Thoreau were transcendentalism. They didn't think with their heads. They do things like in their first impression. If they sees that a tree is violet, they will paint it violet. During that era, Romanticism was party of it too. Ideas of Romanticism with transcendentalism. In our everyday life, we use transcendentalism. We use our head to think and our hart to feel love…...
Henry David ThoreauLiteratureMoralityPhilosophical TheoriesPhilosophyTranscendentalism
Being transcendental
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As humans, we often find ourselves falling into a routine in our everyday lives and don't take into consideration the little aspects of life that truly make our lives the best it can be. Consistency and conforming to the norms of society is what much of what our lives are surrounded by. Being transcendental is what spotlights those who go the extra mile to make a difference in the world and truly have their lives have an impact. To be…...
HumanIndividualismTranscendentalismWalden
Looking up at the sky as the birds fly by on a
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Looking up at the sky as the birds fly by on a hot sunny day thinking about my plans and what Iplan on doing for the day, watching cars by pass one by one seeing the trees blow and the wind.As I watch and stare at the pond I see little tad poles in the water dosing off in a trans I start towalk and block out every sound of voices and cars and forget about what's around me at…...
BirdPhilosophyTranscendentalismWalden
Disrupted Life and Culture in Mauritius
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In the poem, the narrator is driven around in a horse-drawn carriage to several places, including a schoolyard, a field of wheat, and a house sunken in the ground. However, a deeper reading of the poem reveals the poet’s uncertainty of whether there is or is not an afterlife. The events she describes are of course fictional and unknowable, but the multiple changes in pacing of the poem, as well as the changing nature of the carriage (stationary and in…...
CultureEmily DickinsonGodLifePoetryTranscendentalism
The New England Renaissance
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American literature, in its a lot of basic structure, has it roots in British literature. The earlier authors understood Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Dryden, Spenser, Donne, and Bacon. A lot of families had copies of the Authorized Variation of the Bible of 1611, typically referred to as the King James Variation. As time went on, American writers continued to be affected by Dickens, the Bronte siblings, Austen and Shelley. The separation of British and American literature started from the very…...
EnglandNew EnglandRalph Waldo EmersonRenaissance PeriodRomanticismTranscendentalism
The Scarlet Letter – Elements of Dark Romanticism
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The novel, The Scarlet letter, can be described as both a psychological romance as well as a historical novel. This story takes place on a puritan settlement in 17th century Boston. At this time, Puritans believed in living by the bible and that God drew the soul of man to salvation. They also viewed nature as "evil" or "corrupt". On the contrary, Transcendentalist/Romantics rejected Puritan religious attitudes and admired nature. They also believed in a higher knowledge than that achieved…...
RomanticismScarlet LetterTranscendentalism
You Only Live Once
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“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough,” –Mae West. The Transcendentalist time period relates mostly to the philosophy, “Live life to the fullest. ” Transcendentalists’ believe in self-reliance, individualism, and inner spiritual beliefs, just like any person who wants to live their life to the fullest. Every person should enjoy every moment of their lives by appreciating everything in order to follow their dreams and to live their lives to the fullest. The most…...
LifeMetaphysicsPhilosophical TheoriesPhilosophyTranscendentalism
Commentary on Transcendentalism Throughout Moby Dick
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It is quite possible that nothing runs deeper through the veins of Herman Melville than his disdain for anything transcendental. Melville’s belittling of the entire transcendentalist movement is far from sparsely demonstrated throughout the pages of Moby-Dick, in which he strategically points out the intrinsic existence of evil, the asperity of nature and the wrath of the almighty God. To Melville, transcendentalists became a “guild of self-impostors, with a preposterous rabble of Muggletonian Scots and Yankees, whose vile brogue still…...
Moby DickPhilosophyTranscendentalism
Transcendentalism: Edgar Allan Poe and People
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Transcendentalism, was a major belief of many people in America. Although it no longer remains as a belief in today's society, in the eighteen hundreds it made quite an impression. Some of these people consisted of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, two great American authors. Transcendentalists believed that everyone was one with nature, and anything could be achieved with the right mindset. Many of these beliefs are still taught to the youth of today. Now, although many people…...
Edgar Allan PoePeopleTranscendentalism
Transcendentalism and Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Transcendentalism started in the 19th century in Concord, Massachusetts. It was a literary, spiritual, and philosophical movement that consisted of a group of optimistic individuals who shared a common outlook and interests. (Transcendentalism) "Transcendentalism referred to the idea in identifying the ultimate truth of God, deep space, self, and other concerns. They thought one need to go beyond daily human experiences in the real world." They likewise thought in the concept of trying to prefect themselves and others. (Beers) Ralph…...
PhilosophyRalph Waldo EmersonTranscendentalism
Transcendentalism in modern music
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Transcendentalism influenced the 19th century and emphasized on the value of the individual and intuition. It was an idea that people were at their best when they we self reliant and independent. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the movements most important figure along with his main follower Henry David Thoreau. These two people were the most influential people during this movement. Transcendentalism was all about being an individual and it still endures today in modern culture. It is particularly evident in…...
EminemMusicTranscendentalismTupac Shakur
Transcendentalism – Dead Poets Society
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Dead Poet’s Society was filmed through the eyes of transcendentalism using Emerson’s philosophy, as seen in Nature and “Self-Reliance;” and Thoreau’s philosophy, as seen in Walden. The film deals with a group of young men who attend a very strict boarding school and the English teacher who gives them a new perspective on everything. The damaging effects of conformity, beautiful sense of nature, and emphasis of simplicity and individuality are shown in many elements throughout Dead Poet’s Society and are…...
SocietyTranscendentalismWalden
Transcendentalism vs, Dark Romanticism
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The nineteenth century gave readers a plethora of literary genius. Perhaps the most recognized literary movement was Transcendentalism. This literary concept was based on a group of new ideas in religion, culture, and philosophy. Transcendentalism paved the way for many subgenres, it’s most significantly opposite; however was the emergence of Dark Romanticism. The Romantics had a tendency to value emotion and intuition over reason and logic. Many of the writers of the nineteenth century placed themselves into one or the…...
CultureHenry David ThoreauRomanticismTranscendentalism
Emerson and Thoreau Transcendentalism Beliefs
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Both Emerson and Thoreau use the images of eyes, vision, and perception to properly demonstrate their transcendentalist beliefs. Transcendentalism is defined as the “idea that our spirits have a deep connection with nature and our ideas transcend to the natural world. ” By using the “transparent eyeball” and other uses of perception of the whole in nature in their works, both authors establish a strong belief of perception through transcendentalism within the natural world. Their works have many parallels between…...
BeliefHenry David ThoreauRalph Waldo EmersonTranscendentalismWalden
Enlightenment, Transcendentalism, and Puritan Theology
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Knowledge, transcendentalism, and puritan theology: 3 philosophies that formed 3 centuries in America. Given that the time periods of each philosophy overlapped with the others, all 3 had resemblances as well as differences. From these approaches came different writers with different views, shaping American prose. A significant Enlightenment author was Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine composed a piece called "The Age of Reason." In this piece he totally incorporated the ideologies of the Enlightenment. These included the belief in the perfectibility…...
BeliefFaithGodHenry David ThoreauThe EnlightenmentTheology
Transcendentalism in Modern America
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America has always been a different type of country; from the day it fought the British in 1776 to the consumerist America of today. It broke the norm of having a monarch who consolidated power, and instead gave that power to the people. These very important pieces of American history helped spark the transcendentalist movement, as it was the first literary movement in the United States. Transcendentalism, through the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, illustrated the…...
AmericaHenry David ThoreauRalph Waldo EmersonTranscendentalism
The Influences of Transcendentalism and Beyond
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The Transcendentalist movement occurred over 150 years ago but the philosophies that its’ leaders preached affect our world to this day. Transcendentalists such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson have had a profound effect on such historical figures as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi to Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan. A thorough understanding of Transcendentalist dogma is necessary if you want to fully comprehend 20th century history. The Transcendentalist movement originated in Concord, Massachusetts during the middle…...
InfluenceTranscendentalism
Transcendentalism: the Rebellion
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Transcendentalism, as defined by Dictionary. com, is "any philosophy based upon the doctrine that the principles of reality are to be discovered by the study of the processes of thought, or a philosophy emphasizing the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical? " (Transcendentalism). This new philosophy created a rebellion and turn away from the traditional religions in the United States. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are two primary authors and promoters of Transcendentalism. In this paper I will…...
Henry David ThoreauRalph Waldo EmersonRebellionTranscendentalismWalden
Walden and Transcendentalism
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Henry Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden or a Life in the Woods, shows the impact transcendentalism had on Thoreau’s worldview. Transcendentalism is a philosophy that asserts the primacy of the spiritual over the material. Transcendentalism puts the emphasis on spiritual growth and understanding as opposed to worldly pleasures. Thoreau’s idea of transcendentalism stressed the importance of nature and being close to nature. He believed that nature was a metaphor for spiritual enlightenment. A walk in the woods therefore was a search for…...
Henry David ThoreauTranscendentalismWaldenWhere I Lived and What I Lived
Technology and Transcendentalism
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Have you noticed fewer children when you look out your window? Do the kids that surround you prefer to stay inside rather than be in the fresh air? The introduction of technology has changed the way we look at the world, including the younger generations. However, is there such a thing as too much technology? Items such as cell phones, video games, TVs, and portable MP3 players are just a few of the products modern day children are more or…...
ObesityTechnologyTranscendentalismUnderstandingVideo Game
Transcendentalism and Romanticism
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Throughout time there have been many literary movements, many of which become forgotten over time. However they should not be forgotten because they have shaped American literature into what it is today. Two of the more important literary movements of the late 18th century to the early 19th century are transcendentalism and romanticism. Transcendentalism was a literary movement in the first half of the 19th century. Transcendentalists were influenced by romanticism, especially such aspects of self examination, the celebration of…...
Ralph Waldo EmersonRomanticismTranscendentalism
Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism Characteristics
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1. ) Transcendentalism a. Proverbs 3:5 b. John 17:17 c. Jeremiah 17:9 d. Isaiah 53:6 e. Proverbs 18:2 f. Colossians 2:8 2. ) Anti-Transcendentalism a. Romans 8:5 b. Romans 8: 12-13 c. Romans 8:6 d. Psalm 103:12 e. Galatians 5:1 Facts: 1. ) Transcendentalism a. The rise of transcendentalism was due based on the conflict against the Unitarian church. b. There are many definitions to transcendentalism but the same point is that philosophy of insight is the guide for spirituality.…...
CharacterPhilosophyProverbsTranscendentalism
Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism
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In the mid-1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson produced a belief called Transcendentalism. He wrote the essay, "Self Reliance" and Henry David Thoreau, another Transcendentalist composed an essay called, "Walden." Both works of literature concentrate on the Transcendentalism belief. In "The Minister's Black Veil" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hawthorne reveals both Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism through the attitudes of the characters. For that reason, "The Minister's Black Veil" can be compared and contrasted with both "Self Reliance" and "Walden." During the 1830s and 1840s,…...
Ralph Waldo EmersonTranscendentalismWalden
Grapes of Wrath Theme
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The main theme of The Grapes of Wrath is the idea that all men are part of the family of man. This is closely related to the philosophical movement of transcendentalism, what the author Ralph Waldo Emerson followed. There are four main points of the story that express this in the story; the ex-preacher’s search for purpose, Ma Joad’s understanding of working together, Pa turning from making money for himself to providing for the group and finally Tom’s decision to…...
Grapes of Wrath The Grapes Of WrathThe Grapes Of WrathTranscendentalism
Margaret Fuller’s Influence
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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…...
CultureInfluencePhilosophyTranscendentalism
Henry David Thoreau and His Contribution to Transcendentalism
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Henry David Thoreau, a French descendant, was born in 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts; a graduate of Harvard College with no literary distinction. Throughout his life he executed a very strong Saxon genius, as his ancestors had been known. As an ordinary young man, he began to work for a living. After his graduation, he joined his brother in teaching in a private school, which he stayed for a while. He later left to enter into manufacturing work – making a…...
Henry David ThoreauRalph Waldo EmersonSimple LivingTranscendentalismWalden
American Literary Movements Summary
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Puritanism (17th century) - a style of writing that adhered to five basic tenets of religious life: original sin, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints, and predestination. Puritans believed that God divinely controls the universe and all humans, regardless of social or economic status, are equal in God’s sight. Central to Puritan success is the extreme self-determinism that still contributes to American idealism. Important writers of this period: William Bradford, Anne Bradstreet, Jonathan Edwards, John Smith, and Edward…...
AmericaReasonTranscendentalism
The History of American Literature
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The history of American Literature begins well before this land was even called America. It has been a fantastic evolution to come from tribal symbols and drawings to today's Stephen King and Danielle Steele. Literature has actually gone through lots of phases and was impacted by excellent events and concepts in American history. The earliest kind of literature in what would one day be referred to as America were far from what contemporary individuals would think about "Literature". The Natives…...
AmericaAmerican literatureCommon SenseHistoryLiteratureNathaniel Hawthorne
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Self-Reliance and Transcendentalism
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American transcendentalist philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his self-help essay, he speaks on the conformity of humanity and how we must follow our instincts, our gut feeling. Emerson's purpose is to convey the idea that even though society itself corrupts our 'natural goodness' in people and that societies rules take us away from ourselves and our true persona's. He adopts a firm, educated tone to execute his message to the reader and teach the reader his core beliefs…...
Human NatureRalph Waldo EmersonTranscendentalism
Views of transcendentalism versus puritanism
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The Puritans see God as inexplicably included in the acts of deep space, whereas the transcendentalists believe God is connected to humanity through nature and intuition. The outlook on Puritan composing is that their style tends to be plain and reflective. Transcendentalist writing shows how nature and feelings are victorious over reasoning and rationality. In contrast to the plain style of Puritan writing, Jonathan Edwards frequently strikes his audience with powerful words in his literature. He exhibits this style in…...
AngerNatureRalph Waldo EmersonSinnersTranscendentalism
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Development of Transcendentalism

Emerson’s development of Transcendentalism, such as the theme of individuality, is still a part of the American storytelling tradition nearly 200 years later. Emerson encourages individuality by speaking negatively about copying others and being jealous of others. In his essay, Self-Reliance, Emerson states, “Imitation is suicide” (Emerson 209) and “Envy is ignorance” (Emerson 209). Emerson describes imitation as being suicidal because when someone copies someone else and is not being true to who they are and they are “killing” their personality. He also views jealousy as a negative thing, which adds to his belief of staying true to who you are and not copying anyone else. In a Critical Essay on “Self-Reliance” authors say, ”Emerson has made a case that individuals have not only a right but also a responsibility to think for themselves and that neither societal disapproval nor concerns about consistency should discourage these” (Galens, Smith, Thomason 4). This supports the idea of being yourself by saying people have a responsibility to think for themselves. This theme is present in the movie Joe Versus the Volcano when it shows that everyday Joe goes through the same routine with the same people at the same place and begins to conform with the people around him. Throughout the beginning of the movie he starts to break away from the conformity and then he finally stands up to his boss and quits, which shows a sign of individuality.

Emerson’s Role in American Philosophy

Not only is Emerson’s theme of individuality still a part of the American storytelling tradition nearly 200 years later, so is his theme of hard work and development of “gifts”. Emerson says, ”A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds… With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do” (Emerson 209). In this line, Emerson calls people foolish who waste their time doing the same thing over and over again instead of bettering themselves. Authors support Emerson’s statement in Critical Essay on “Self-Reliance” by saying, ”He reassures readers that what appears to be inconsistency and is judged harshly by others is simply the varied but unified activity of a unique individual” (Galens, Smith, Thomason 4). This statement supports Emerson’s idea that if you have a belief one day but then it changes the next day because you’re developing, learning, and bettering yourself, you are still encouraged to follow that belief because it is better than wasting your time on something you already know. This theme is shown in Joe Versus the Volcano when Joe leaves his job where he did the same thing every day and starts to become a much happier and better person and accomplishes more things than he ever did at work because he is learning and developing as a person.

Emerson’s development of Transcendentalism, such as the theme of society causes conformity and loss of self, is still a part of the American storytelling tradition nearly 200 years later. Emerson states, “But they [the voices] grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members… The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.” He is suggesting that society causes us to conform. He strongly believes that you must be a nonconformist and not lose your divine purpose on this earth. (Emerson 209). “He holds that people misunderstand the true nature of progress, mistaking advances in science, technology, and material welfare for progress. Every such advance has a cost as great as its benefit, Emerson claims, and does not really benefit individuals or society in meaningful ways. What passes for progress does not make people either better or happier.

True progress occurs on an individual, not a societal basis, he writes, and results from looking to self, rather than material things, for fulfillment.” (Galens, Smith, Thomason 6). These lines from a Critical Essay on “Self-Reliance” relate Emerson’s belief that society conforms us in a modern way by claiming new advances in technology, such a devices and social media, conform us as a society and we do not benefit from it. The only true progress that will occur is when one looks within themself and connects with the outside world (nature). Emerson’s belief that connecting to nature helps nonconformity is shown in Joe Versus the Volcano when Joe picks up the flower that was squashed in the opening scene. It shows the audience that he is starting to break away from conformity and it is the first hint of Joe connecting with nature.

Not only is Emerson’s theme of society causes conformity and loss of self still a part of the American storytelling tradition nearly 200 years later, but so is Thoreau’s belief that government is a prop, and individuals must act on their moral conscience. Thoreau calls government a “wooden gun” (Thoreau 235) in his essay Civil Disobedience, meaning that it’s a prop/idea and has no power. In this case, Thoreau is saying that men (people) are the ones who have the power, not the government.

The government cannot control society. “Thoreau spent a night in jail because he had refused to pay six years of delinquent poll taxes. He argued that he could not pay funds that helped to support the U.S. government’s war with Mexico, nor could he pay a government that still accepted slavery in its Southern states” (Bankston 2). These lines from Civil Disobedience: Overview tell why Thoreau was put in jail, which emphasizes the fact that people cannot just talk about what they believe is right, they must act on it for change to happen. In Joe Versus the Volcano, Joe acts on his conscience by not conforming with society, leaving his job, and becoming connected with nature because that is what he thinks is morally right. These actions lead him into getting the “job” to jump into the volcano.

Emerson’s development of Transcendentalism, such as the theme of speaking your truth and not being afraid to be misunderstood, is still a part of the American storytelling tradition nearly 200 years later. In Self-Reliance Emerson writes, “Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today…To be great is to be misunderstood” (Emerson 209).

Emerson is saying to speak your truth even if it changes as you learn and grow or if you’re judged for it. In a Critical Essay on “Self-Reliance” authors state, “He reassures readers that what appears to be inconsistency and is judged harshly by others is simply the varied but unified activity of a unique individual” (Galens, Smith, Thomason 4). This means that although people may judge you harshly for “contradicting” yourself, it is okay to change your beliefs as you grow older and learn more. In Joe Versus the Volcano, Joe yells at his boss, speaking his truth about the workplace and what kind of person his boss is. He isn’t afraid of what his boss and coworkers think of him or how they judge him while he is saying this to his boss.

Thoreau’s Idea of Physical Jail vs Moral Conscience

Thoreau’s idea of physical jail versus moral conscience, along with Emerson’s theme of speaking your truth and not being afraid to be misunderstood, is still a part of the American storytelling tradition nearly 200 years later. In Civil Disobedience Thoreau writes, “If there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through before they could get to be as free as I was” (Thoreau 235). Thoreau is claiming that freedom is your mind, not your body. His mind is free for standing up for what he believes in. In Civil Disobedience: Overview Bankston writes, “In his mind, the walls between himself and his townspeople simply make him freer than the others, since he is acting in accord with his own thoughts. Thoreau’s description of his time in jail reads more like an account of a vacation than a punishment.” (Bankston 2). This describes how Thoreau didn’t see spending a night in jail as a punishment because he felt good mentally and morally for standing up against what was wrong by not paying his taxes. This is shown in Joe Versus the Volcano through Joe’s braincloud because it represents his mind being “locked up” and not free, but in the end he realizes that he never had a braincloud and the only thing stopping him from living the life he wanted to was conformity.

The Influence of Transcendentalism

Elements of Transcendentalism, established in the works of Emerson and Thoreau, are apparent in Postmodern film and demonstrated through the concepts of divine purpose, spirituality found in nature versus conformity of society, and freedom of the mind. Transcendentalism encourages people to look closely at the world, to look closely at themselves, and to be radically honest about what they see. Without the beliefs and ideas presented by Emerson and Thoreau inspiring other leaders, our world wouldn’t be where it is today.

FAQ about Transcendentalism

Self-Reliance and transcendentalism and how they relate to modern day life
...We use Microsoft products day by day all because of him sticking with original thought. Emerson brought up many points in Self-Reliance that are still extremely valid in today's society, and there are many examples of people who demonstrate these tra...

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