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American Literature: Romanticism and Transcendentalism

nature writers
people who observe and write about the living planet and are always found writing about 2 things at once: the ecosystem and continent that is our mind and body, and the greater one of the world surrounding us

the power of nature, weather, and human and animal consciousness as one of the same

Henry David Thoreau
stayed in a cabin by Walden Pond in Concord for 2 years and 2 months on Emerson’s property

What we learn from Thoreau’s life and writings is _____
that anywhere we happen to live is good enough

an artistic movement that dominated Europe and America during the 19th century that focused on imagination, emotion, nature, individuality, and exotica.

Romantic writers
elevated the imagination over reason and intuition over fact

Features of Romanticism
-imagination superior to logic
– the american past
-nature= spiritual resource
– high view of countryside

American Romantic Features
-wilderness experience
-journey away from city
-hero is childlike innocent
– they distrust city life
-uneasiness w/ women
-interest in finding higher truth through nature

fireside poets (romantic)
– Holmes

Transcendentalist writers

Gothic writers

Washington Irving
– 1st american writer w/ international reputation
– wrote The Devil and Tom Walker
-stories based in New York’s Hudson Valley
– Rip Van Winkle

folk tales
legend of someone striking a bargain w/ the devil (written form of folklore)

symbol that stands for or suggests something abstract

rhythm -systematic arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables

Faust Legend
a tale about a man who sells his soul to the devil for earthly benefits

moral decay of society

Old Scratch, neither Negro nor Indian, black woodsman

shortcut to wealth

direct characterization
when the writer simply states the character’s traits

indirect characterization
when the writer reveals the character through words, descriptions, and others who talk about that character

The Devil and Tom Walker point of view
3rd person omniscient

the process of analyzing a poem’s metrical pattern

unstressed- stressed

stressed- unstressed

stressed- unstressed- unstressed

unstressed-unstressed- stressed

stressed- stressed

the writer’s attitude toward his or her subject, characters, or audience

the descriptive or figurative language used in literature to create word pictures for the reader

rhetorical devices
-rhetorical questions

a story or tale with 2 or more levels of meaning, a literal and one or more symbolic levels.

an American literary and philosophical movement of the 19th century that believed that intuition and the individual conscience “transcend” experience and thus are better guides to truth than are the senses and logical reason

Transcendentalism Features
– respected individual spirit
– respected natural world
– believed divinity was present everywhere (in nature and people)

Anti- Transcendentalism
focused on the dark side of humanity, the evil, and guilt of sin
-opposed optimism and idealism of transcendentalism
– dwelt on guilt over past sins
– focus on society’s ills or dilemmas

Hawthorne’s style
-belief in potential destructiveness of human spirit
– belief in individual truths, not universal truths
– human nature = inherently sinful
– focus on man’s uncertainty and limitations

simple, brief story that teaches a moral lesson

the truth lies outside the experiences of senses

single effect
every detail contributes to this (Poe’s style)

Poe’s Style
-gothic genre
-setting: bleak or remote place
– plot: violen incidents
– characters: in psych, or physical torment
– supernatural/ otherworldly elements present
– narrator is preyed upon by outside forces and his own thoughts

The tide rises , the tide falls

William Cullen Bryant
-journalist and political activist
– used his position as an influential journalist to defend human rights and personal freedoms
– Thanatopsis


Oliver Wendall Holmes
– descendant of Anne Bradstreet
– law and medical
– taught @ harvard
– founded Atlantic Monthly
– loved exaggeration and quotable statements
– saved Old Ironsides from being demolished

Old Ironsides

John Greenleaf Whittier
– believed in hard work, simplicity, social justice, and religious devotion
– involved in social issues
– snowbound
depicts the simple warmth of rural New England life


figurative language
Whenever you describe something by comparing it with something else, you are using figurative language. (ex: simile, metaphor, personification)

Thanatos= ______ and opsis =______
death , sight or view

Ralph Waldo Emerson
-founder of Transcendentalism
– interested in connections between human beings, nature, and higher order
-believed in “over-soul” a universal spirit to which all beings return to after death
– believed nature and humanity = part of a whole universal whole
-urged americans to free themselves from past

Thoreau’s Walden
-celebrates life and nature
– views of society and philosophy of life
– society has become too complex and fast-paced; people should simplify their lives
– money is not required to be wealthy, if you still have your thoughts then you are wealthy
– resist conformity; trust thyself
-castles in the air (dreams/ goal), put foundation under it (achievements/plan toward this)


Civil Disobedience

The Fall of the House of Usher

Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment

The Minister’s Black Veil

Self- Reliance


The Snowstorm

Concord Hymn

Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience
-urges people to resist governmental policies with which they disagree
-“that government is best which governs least” or “not at all”
– government is a resource, if used as gun against each other- he will split
– wants an at once a better government

Emerson’s Self- Reliance
-envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide
– people need to work to be nourished
– everyone represents a divine idea
– god doesn’t work through cowards
– trust thyself
– society is in conspiracy against people
– speak using hard words
– everyone who is great is misunderstood
– value of intuition

Emerson’s The Snowstorm
– storm= constructs great work of art
– arriving an “army” of snow
-snow slows down people
– snow= creative power of nature
– we need to see beyond illusions of snowstorm in order to be illuminated than blinded

Emerson’s Concord Hymn
– fired gunshots heard around the world
– people on both sides stopped thinking about bridge
– monument next to stream so people remember how important this war was
– asks monument to be preserved by nature so heroes will be remembered

Transcendental Club
developed a philosophical system that stressed intuition, individuality, and self-reliance

Emerson’s Nature
– views nature as giving humans so much, while humans give nothing, which results the balance between nature and humanity to be disturbed
– view that nature and beauty of nature can only be understood by a man when he is in solitude
– see nature through child’s eyes to develop a deeper connection
-transparent eyeball

Henry David Thoreau
-independent and strong willed
– black coats at harvard – he wore green coat
– always questioned the rules presented
– opened own school with brother
– devoted rest of life to exploring and writing about the spiritual relationship between humanity and nature and supporting his politcal and social beliefs
-made readers aware of the possibilities of the human spirit and the limitations of society

Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil
-veil = secret sin
– Reverend Hooper= tormented soul and needed everyone to know by veiling face
– supernatural

Hawthorne’s Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment
– Colonel Killigrew = drunk
– Mr. Medbourne = prosperous merchant but lost it all
– Mr. Gascoigne = ruined politician
– Widow Wycherly= lust, longing for beauty
-foolishness and folly
– supernatural
-Dr. Heidegger= contrasts his guests, dark history

Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher
– madness
– fear
– narrator= outsider
– Roderick Usher
-Madeline Usher

Bryant’s Thanatopsis
– nature is force and idea (personification) (her)
– the grave= death (contrast between the freedom and the open space of nature and the confinement of the grave)
– sun= beauty and power of life and nature
– couch= where we go to die (cozy, comforting)
– death is just sleeping with pleasant dreams

Longfellow’s The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls
– life after death
– repeats to symbolize life continuing after death

Holmes’s Old Ironsides
– trying to get people to realize the ship should not be taken apart in port because it was important in battle
– reminds that there were heroes on the ship

Whittier’s Snowbound
– tone= beautiful picture of a snowstorm
– human vs. nature (family vs. snowstorm)

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