New England Brahmins and Transcendentalism.
N e w E n g l a n d B r a h m i n s/S c h o o l r o o m P o e t s
- the name: from the term for the highest of priestly caste among the Hinds
- humorously applied to the New En. upper-class society
- aristocratic Boston writers from rich families
- consid. Boston the centre of thinking of the continent, the whole planet
- met regularly in the ‘Saturday Club’
- establ. The Atlantic Monthly = the leading intellectual magazine for next 20 – 30 y.
- often copied E lit. styles
>> ‘schoolroom poets’
- incl. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes
T r a n s c e n d e n t a l i s m ( 1 8 4 0 s )
O r i g i n s :
- the society spreads westwards – writers search for the ideals at the frontier
- Boston and the neighbourhood become the centre of intellectuals from Harvard and Cambridge
- young authors dissatisfied with the old patriotism, uninterested in Am.’s power and wealth, and anxious to explore the inner life
- study Gr., Ger., and Ind. philos.
- transcendentalists = a small group of young radical intellectuals, centred in Concord in 1830s – 40s, with the leading personality of R. W. Emerson
- the name: from I. Kant’s ‘transcendental’ philos. they were reported to discuss frequently
- advocated a moral reform: promoted temperance, women’s rights, and abolitionism
- also conc. with relig. controversies of the time (many of them trained for the Unitarian ministry)
- incl. R. W. Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Theodore Parker, Bronson Alcott, Elizabeth Peabody, & oth.
> The Dial (1840 – 44): their intellectual miscellany magazine, ed. chiefly by R. W. Emerson and M. Fuller
- inspired 2 experiments in co-operative living and high thinking near Boston: the ‘Brook Farm’ and ‘Fruitlands’ (both 1840s)
- their radical force and quality of social and relig. protest became eventually diluted and dissipated by 1870s and gave way to the Am. Renaissance
I d e a ( l ) s :
- a spiritual, philos., and lit. movement: free thinkers in relig., Kantanian and idealistic in philos., Romantic and individualistic in lit.
- a mystical, idealistic, and individual manifestation of the general humanitarian trend of 19th c.
- orig. in the confrontation of Puritanism with ideas of Eur. romanticism (incl. the Ger. idealistic philos.), culminated in the middle of the 19th c. in New En., and considerably infl. the authors of the Am. Renaissance – H. D. Thoreau, N. Hawthorne, H. Melville, and W. Whitman
- moved from the rational to a spiritual realm, aspired to find the truth through feeling and intuition rather than logic
- concept of God: respected Him, found Him everywhere in man and nature, did not reject the afterlife x but: emphasised this life
- concept of nature:
(a) studying nature = knowing oneself
(b) natural images: a language revealing human soul
(c) nature mirrors one’s psyche
(d) nature = the Bible
M a n i f e s t o :
- an individual stands in the spiritual centre of the universe: a clue to nature, history, and cosmos itself can be found in an individual, the world explained in terms of an individual
- all knowledge begins with self-knowledge
- nature remains a living mystery, symbolic, and full of signs
- an individual virtue and happiness depend upon self-realisation
Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.
Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.
Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.
McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.
Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.
Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.