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Ch 6: Transcendentalism in Literature

About This Chapter

Watch Transcendentalism video lessons and learn about the works of Emerson, Dickinson, Thoreau and Whitman. Take the quizzes that follow each lesson to test your knowledge of this important American literature topic.

Transcendentalism

You are inherently good, and so is nature - this was a central belief of Transcendentalism, a 19th-century American movement with literary influences. Part intellectual movement, part social change and part philosophy, Transcendentalism was hard to pin down and open to interpretation, so we introduce you to some of the literary period's authors as reference points.

We start our transcendental journey with Ralph Waldo Emerson, a lecturer, poet and essayist whose works espoused individuality. Our lesson gives a summary and analysis of his essay 'Self-Reliance,' which contains one his famous quotations: 'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.' His work also illuminates the characteristics of transcendental ideas. Next, we move to Henry David Thoreau with a summary and analysis of his book Walden. The book details his experiences of living by Walden Pond on land owned by none other than his dear friend Emerson. His embrace of nature adds to our understanding of the Transcendentalist movement.

This movement certainly had a female presence as well, so we examine two of Emily Dickinson's poems: 'Because I Could Not Stop for Death' and 'A Narrow Fellow in the Grass.' This highly reclusive poet could make masterful use of personification, and you get to see it through our analysis of each poem. Finally, we explore the works of Walt Whitman. As both a transcendental poet and a realist poet, he is sometimes seen as a bridge between Transcendentalism and literary realism. You also get a taste of Whitman's free verse. Our lessons transcend traditional notions of learning to offer engaging, memorable videos for your viewing pleasure. Thanks for watching!

8 Lessons in Chapter 6: Transcendentalism in Literature
Transcendentalism: Impact on American Literature

1. Transcendentalism: Impact on American Literature

This video defines Transcendentalism, a literary movement of the mid-19th century. Authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman used their literary platforms to encourage Americans to transcend society's presumptions and create a personal, progressive relationship with spirituality and nature.

Self-Reliance: Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcendental Essay

2. Self-Reliance: Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcendental Essay

This video analyzes Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay 'Self-Reliance' for characteristics of transcendental ideas, including individualism, nonconformity, and intuition.

The American Scholar by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Summary & Analysis

3. The American Scholar by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Summary & Analysis

Do you ever wonder if we've run out of new ideas? Well, don't be so sure until you read this lesson with a synopsis and analysis of 'The American Scholar' by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the quintessential American scholar himself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's Society and Solitude: Summary & Themes

4. Ralph Waldo Emerson's Society and Solitude: Summary & Themes

Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, 'Society and Solitude,' identifies 19th-century transcendentalist themes such as the importance of private contemplation and intuition. We'll be studying these themes in this lesson.

Henry David Thoreau's Walden: Summary and Analysis

5. Henry David Thoreau's Walden: Summary and Analysis

Henry David Thoreau was one of the most influential transcendental American writers and Walden was one of the movement's most important works. Let's explore why.

Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience: Summary and Analysis

6. Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience: Summary and Analysis

Henry David Thoreau wrote the essay Civil Disobedience to show his opposition to slavery and American imperialism. His essay has influenced many prominent civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Emily Dickinson: Poems and Poetry Analysis

7. Emily Dickinson: Poems and Poetry Analysis

Emily Dickinson was a well-known poet of the mid-1800s whose numerous works have stood the test of time. But what in the world did her poems really mean? In this video, we'll explore one of her most recognized pieces and analyze its meaning and purpose.

Walt Whitman: Transcendental and Realist Poet

8. Walt Whitman: Transcendental and Realist Poet

Walt Whitman is now considered one of the greatest American poets of all time, but his work was not so well-loved when it first debuted. Find out what made the man and his poems so controversial.

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