English 250

Research Seminar: Transcendentalism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2019 Tamarkin, Elisa
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 180 Barrows

Book List

Cavell, Stanley: Emerson's Transcendental Etudes; Cavell, Stanley: The Senses of Walden; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: The Portable Emerson; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Blithedale Romance; Higginson, Thomas Wentworth: Army Life in a Black Regiment; James, Henry: The Bostonians; Thoreau, Henry David: The Portable Thoreau; ed. Buell : The American Transcendentalists: Essential Writings


This course considers Transcendentalism and its legacies with particular focus on the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson from the publication of Nature (1836) through Letters and Social Aims (1875).  Following Emerson's career in essays, lectures, and journals, we will examine his relationship across the nineteenth century to the intellectual and social history of the movement he defined.  What began in religious dissent from orthodoxies at Harvard became a program for reform and antislavery, for public intellectualism, for self-culture, and for new experiments in reading, writing, and living.  We’ll read Emerson beside major works by Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller, plus George Ripley on utopianism, Bronson Alcott on education, Orestes Brownson on the “laboring classes,” Theodore Parker on hermeneutics, and Jones Very on Transcendentalism as a poetic practice.  We’ll also read responses to Transcendentalism by Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Henry James.  Central to our discussions will be the movement’s engagement with German and British Romanticism (especially Kant, Schleiermacher, Herder, Strauss, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Carlyle) and, finally, the engagement of Nietzsche and others with Transcendentalism as an American answer to philosophical thinking.

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