Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism

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  • Topic: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau
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Transcendentalism Within the Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Romanticism was a movement of American literature that swept the country throughout the 19th century. Within Romanticism, was the Transcendentalist Era, which began in the early 1800s (Gura 4). Transcendentalism is difficult to define, but its core ideas are embodied in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson is not only known as one of the most influential transcendental writers, but as the unofficial leader of the group of transcendentalists and the first to really create and express the ideas that this group of people shared (“Transcendentalism” 19). Simplicity, non-conformity and individuality over reasoning are only some of the ideas that make up Transcendentalism (“Ralph Waldo Emerson” 239). These fundamental beliefs of transcendentalism are evident in Emerson’s works, specifically “Self-Reliance,” and “Nature.”

Emerson is a strong advocate for never changing one’s self for anyone else and always avoiding the temptation of conformity. As the title clearly states, “Self-Reliance” is one of Emerson’s essays that proposes the idea that one should rely on one’s self to gain knowledge and should not conform to the likeness of others (Koster 38). In February of 1833, Emerson began writing about many of these thoughts and ideas in his journal. In 1841, “Self-Reliance” was written and published based off of the topics written about in his journal, but was revised several times as Emerson expanded on this idea of relying on one’s self and being one’s own person (Koster 37). Within “Self-Reliance,” Emerson introduces the idea that “there is time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance and that imitation is suicide” (“Self Reliance” 267). This clearly portrays transcendentalism, as it states that once a person changes their personality, he is essentially losing himself and everything that makes him who he is. Emerson also suggests that even taking on the...
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