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.