Ralph Emerson And Transcendentalism Essay Research Paper

Ralph Emerson And Transcendentalism Essay, Research Paper

The writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson dealt with three aspects of transcendental

thought, which consisted of spiritual, philosophical, and literary content. In

his time, Emerson imparted an influence upon his contemporaries and American

literature. He explicitly encouraged other writers by his appeal for new

American literature and new voices because America had failed to denounce

European literature and produce its own literary scholarship. Emerson believed

that literature should have a spiritual influence because of personal religious

convictions. Also, he thought philosophy could espouse essential forms through

which the mind itself quantified. Finally, Emerson believed that literary

authenticity played an integral part in the formation of American literature.

Because Emerson realized America needed to develop its own literary works, he

perpetuated the transcendentalist movement to sculpture American literature

through spirituality, philosophy, and literary content. In religion, it was

post-Unitarian and freethinking, and he articulated it in his "Divinity

School Address". In the address, Emerson perceived religion as a tedious

pursuit needed to obtain virtue in life. The controversy of Emerson’s thinking

directly addressed the Christian Church. Jesus Christ in Emerson’s retrospection

was a miraculous authority, but he asserted that the Christian Church erred by

exaggerating the miracles of Jesus and the confinement of revelation. His

resolution was audacious: Let me admonish you, first of all, to go alone; to

refuse the good models, even those which are sacred in the imagination of men,

and date to love God without mediator or veil. To Emerson, the religious aspect

of transcendentalism was intended to deny past ways of significance and to

discover new, perceptive approaches to God. Nature, Emerson’s first book,

reinforces the philosophical concepts of the movement. The book is an attempt to

answer the proactive question on the first page, "Let us inquire, to what

end is nature?" "Language," one of Emerson’s desired chapters,

indoctrinates his logical thesis of Nature saying: 1. Words are signs of natural

facts. 2. Particular Natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual Facts. 3.

Nature is the symbol of spirit. The use of natural history is to give us aid in

supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language for the

beings and changes of the inward creation. This indicates that the natural realm

exist as a model of the spiritual realm. Emerson’s essay, The American Scholar,

articulates the literary movement of Transcendentalism. He articulates how the

United States of America demanded and deserved a new literature, and that this

literature would speak about and to the American people. His reasoning for this

outcry is the dependency America continued to have on European literature.

Emerson asserted that scholars needed to be self-reliant through the powers of

human intuition. Also, he suggested that scholars must be students of nature,

because nature is the suitable influence upon the mind of the scholar: "1.

The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is

that of nature….The scholar….must settle its value in his mind. What is

nature to him?" He is asking the scholar to assume the same survey he

attempted in Nature. Emerson used "The American Scholar" as an address

designed at stimulating American men and women of letters as individuals and as

a nation: We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe… We will

walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak with our

own minds. The study of letters shall be no longer a name for pity, for doubt,

and for sensual indulgence. The dread of man and the love of man shall be a wall

of defense and a wrath of joy around all. A nation of men will for the first

time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also

inspires all men. This was intended as a message for America to develop its own

culture. When the American scholar is independent of Europe, he will recognize

that "the ancient precept ‘Know Thyself,’ and the modern precept, ‘Study

nature,’ become at last one maxim." Therefore, Emerson uses nature as a

catalyst for his transcendentalist movement. The influence of nature must be

shaped by the mind of the past. By embracing natural history in terms of

literary and spiritual ends, Emerson’s work suggests that American literature

can greatly be inspired by America’s nature.


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