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American Literature Before 1865

Ralph Waldo Emerson
-Born into a family of ministers
-Attended Yale Divinity School
-Became a Unitarian minister
-Married a wealthy woman who died a little over a year later, leaving him with a comfortable income
-Decided to leave the ministry and pursue a new philosophy which became known as transcendentalism
-Lead this new literary/philosophical movement as a lecturer and writer

Emerson’s “Nature”
-Published anonymously in 1836
-Divided into 9 sections (Introduction, Nature, Commodity, Beauty, Language, Discipline, Idealism, Spirit, and Prospects)
-Concerning the relationship between man and natural world and relationship between matter and spirit
-Written during an economic growth and strong market economy

Emerson’s “Self Reliance”
-Most confident & aggressive affirmation of the importance of self-culture to the intellectual and moral development of the individual
-Most sustained defense of individualism

Margaret Fuller
-Born in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts (May 23,1810)
-Teacher in a local school(started learning english & grammar at age 6)
-Influenced to become a writer by her father
-Opened a school for girls & young women in Boston
-First two published books were books translated in German
-In 1844; “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” was published

“Woman in the Nineteenth Century
-July 1843; “Dial”, the literary journal, Fuller published an essay about the relationship between the sexes “The Great Lawsuit: Man vs. Men, Women vs. Women”.
-1844, Fuller expanded the essay into a book
-First book in the US to take up the question of the ways in which society restricts the role of women
-She asserted that men traditionally in positions of power, must rethink social and political boundaries in order to facilitate the full development of members of both sexes

Henry David Thoreau
-Born in Concord, Massachusetts (July 12, 1817)
-Educated at Concord Academy & Harvard College
-Accepted a teaching position in a public school in Concord (resigned bc of disagreement w/ discipline rules)
-Looked up to Ralph Waldo Emerson

Resistance to Civil Government”
-Better known as “Civil Disobedience” (well known essay)
-Inspiration to leaders of social movements around the world; essay was written in response to local events and to the immediate concerns of the 1840’s.

Thoreau’s Walden

Frederick Douglass

Harriet Jacobs
-Born into slavery in North Carolina
-Her first mistress taught her to read and sew, but instead of setting her free, left her as property to her 3-year old niece.
-Dr. Norcom, her de facto master, constantly sexually harassed and abused her.
-Jacobs had a consensual relationship with a white man(sawyer, a future U.S. congressman), who later bought their two children, but did not free them.
-Jacobs escaped and subsequently hid in the attic of her free grandmother for seven years
-She later escaped to NY, where she met and worked with Fredrick Douglass & other abolitionists
-Her employer in NY purchased Jacobs and her children & granted them legal freedom.

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