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Ralph Waldo Emerson: Aspects Of Transcendentalism

1885 words - 8 pages

With the continuous evolvement of the English language, literary movements played a key role in the development of modern day literature. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a successful essayist and poet, enacted the one of these movements known as Transcendentalism in the early 19th century. With the creation of one influential progression of literature in American history, Emerson and fellow Transcendentalists helped develop American tenets. One of the most prominent concepts was the Oversoul. In reference to this tenet, Transcendentalist swayed from Puritan ideals and developed multiple concepts including, nature, idealism, divinity of man, self-reliance, and the duty of the poet.
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Despite a Unitarian foundation, the transcendentalist movement contradicted the beliefs of Puritanism. One of the deviating philosophies was the Transcendentalist view on Nature. The revolutionary thinkers believed that Nature, in its relationship to the individual, is a Teacher because of its representation of God. The concept of idealism also often contrasted Puritan realism because it recognized an individual’s intuition as final rather than relaying solely on the word of God. Additionally, the divinity of man contradicted the Puritan belief in the individual’s need for saving. Also, the notion of self-reliance and individualism allowed for the liberation of individuals for self-improvement. Finally, they believed that it is the fundamental job of the poet to express, educate, and illuminate the public on all of the aspects of the movement. (Kern 3-4) These ideals were supported by the ideal that the Oversoul connects all souls, hence allows each person to have the ability to comprehend these concepts (Woodberry 84).
One of the essential beliefs of Emerson’s was his view on nature, which became the one of the primary aspects of Transcendentalism. The essayist established nature in early works as an encompassing beauty, a divine experience, and an educator. In Emerson’s Rhodora, he explains the flower’s existence by saying, “beauty is its own excuse for Being,” reiterating the significance of the attribute (1:13). As a beauty, the ideal that Nature as a spirit develops from Emerson’s “Nature” (Beach 297). Nature’s renovation as a lively and beautiful occurrence allows nature to develop into a spiritual representation (Kern 4). This philosophical concept of nature as a spirit develops through nature’s unwavering exquisiteness and serenity (Beach 298). In “Nature,” Emerson says, “To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again. The heavens change every moment, and reflect their glory or gloom on the plains beneath,” which expresses that the beauty of the Earth is derived from the heavens, rather God (1:18). Emerson also expressed that man should learn from nature because of its divinity and beauty which contradicts society’s hedonistic attributes (Beach 297. In reference to Emerson’s “Nature” he says “all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence” referencing the importance of individuals learning from Nature (1:7). Emerson’s ideal of nature allows the individual to indirectly learn from God since nature is a reflection of Him (Beach 297). Emerson also encourages each individual to learn firsthand rather than relying on secondary sources (Woodruff 89). With direct contact with nature, it allows man to develop his own personal ideals as a “Man Thinker” rather than a “Mere Thinker.” The Oversoul, a spirit which connects the trinity of man, God, and nature...

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