American 19th Century Movement


About the Movement

In the transcendentalism movement of the nineteenth century, traditional cultural, philosophical, literary and religious values were molded by the minds of figures such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott. This movement was centered in the Northeast, but the longterm effects on all of America were strong. There were movements afoot to have an individual, distinctly "American" identity in literature and social ideas. One of the main ideas of the movement was that enlightenment could be achieved through awareness of other thoughts or ideas and the world around oneself. Religion was also upturned in this revolution. An emphasis was placed on individual worship instead of large fellowships found in the Church. Along with this people began to feel that to be true to God, they had to be true to themselves. They believed that through this they could observe the world and expand their own thoughts and knowledge. A surge of individualistic feelings were now coming into being. This also spurred Americans to create an American style of literature separate from European or Eastern works. The Transcendentalism movement of the 1800's carved the way for an American way of life, furthering them on the path to their eventual unique democracy

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the leaders of the Transcendentalist movement, first introduced the cartoon of the transparent eyeball in his essay "Nature".He states, ”Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.”Through this comparison he hopes to share the idea of becoming a being who is able to be aware of an observe information simultaneously.

Transcendentalism impact- The Transcendentalism movement still has influence on our lives today. Whether expressing ourselves through art or enjoying a classic book, almost all aspects of our lives have been shaped by this revolution. The Transcendentalists encouraged individualism and expression; having one's own opinions based on observations and feelings. They were the base of new "American" style literature and ideas. A more liberal and accepting society was molded, largely guided by transcendentalist values.The transcendentalists also encouraged acceptance of other cultures because it broadened one's knowledge and awareness of one's own world. This helped blend the United States into the "melting pot" it is known as today. The Transcendentalists set into play many modern ideas and values still critical today.

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