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Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalist Movement

All-Day Seminar

Full Day Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0699
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Drive, SW
Metro: Smithsonian Mall Exit (Blue/Orange)
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Transcendentalism as a philosophical, social, and literary force profoundly influenced 19th-century America, and its legacy endures. It emphasized the divine in nature; the value of the individual and intuition; and belief in a guiding spirituality that could “transcend” sensory experience. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the movement’s most important figure, and Henry David Thoreau, his most influential disciple, shaped and activated its potent ideas.

9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Transcendentalism: Sources and Influences

The philosophy in America is rooted in ideas that reach from Enlightenment Europe to the city-states of ancient Greece.

11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Philosophy and Society in a New Nation

Emerson crafted ideas from classical texts, Asian sacred writings, and the wisdom of Europe into a uniquely American way of organizing a society centered on the rights of the individual.

12:15 to 1:30 p.m. Lunch

Participants provide their own lunch.

1:30 to 2:45 p.m. Henry David Thoreau: Poet and Prophet of Walden Pond

Thoreau put many of Emerson’s ideas into practice: abolitionism, the power of civil disobedience, and a profound respect for nature.

3 to 4:15 p.m. The Impact of Transcendentalism from the 19th to the 21st Centuries

From Emerson, Thoreau, and proto-feminist Margaret Fuller to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rachel Carson, Transcendentalist thought continues to influence our social fabric, religious thinking, and attitudes toward nature.

Instructor Ashton Nichols, author of Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting, is Walter E. Beach ’56 Distinguished Chair in Sustainability Studies and a professor of language and literature at Dickinson College.