Emerson & Hawthorne

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Transcendentalism was the new group of ideas in literature, religion, culture, and philosophy that emerged in New England in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Beginning initially as a protest against the general state of culture and society at the time, transcendentalism particularly protested the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School. Core beliefs of transcendentalists included an ideal spiritual state which "transcends" the physical and empirical and is only realized through the individual's intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions. Ralph Waldo Emerson would prove to be one of the most prominent transcendentalists of his time while Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work would prove to contrast greatly. While Emerson’s work fully envelopes the ideas of transcendentalism and encourages academics to embrace transcendental ideology, Hawthorne’s work seems anti-transcendental as he challenges the core concepts of transcendentalism and exposes problematic aspects of Emerson’s philosophies.

Emerson and Hawthorne were both prominent authors of the Romantic Era. However, they each possessed opposite philosophies in regards to life and literature. Emerson expressed a major concern for constructing an emergent culture both separate and different from Europe. For example, in "The Transcendentalist," Emerson shows in a Bartleby-like dialogue how the enlightened individual would wait "Until the Universe beckons and calls us to work (Elbert)." This work basically conveys the common transcendentalist thoughts of charity and communal connections, as devised by Emerson, was based on an elitist principle that the self-reliant individual would find his proper place in the work world eventually; even if that meant holding out until his niche was found (Elbert). Emerson’s works are very philosophical and deliberately provocative, while Hawthorne’s writings can be seen as...
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