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Explore the literary and philosophical movement of Transcendentalism, its origins, key influences, and main ideas. Delve into Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance" as a guide to embracing individuality, self-acceptance, and spiritual unity. Discover the importance of trusting oneself, striving for personal growth, and resisting societal conformity.

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  1. Transcendentalism

  2. Transcendentalism • Intellectual movement (both literary and philosophical) during the New England Renaissance (roughly 1836-1860) • Leading Transcendentalists: Ralph Waldo Emerson; Henry David Thoreau • Began as informal discussion club in Boston, but spread in influence – many of its ideas still part of American culture today

  3. Transcendentalism (cont.) Influences: • Puritanism  nature as symbolic; belief in higher power • Platonism  insistence on spiritual and intellectual ideals in spite of growing cultural focus on materialism, consumerism • Romanticism  ideas of individualism, imagination, counter-cultural spirit

  4. Transcendentalism (cont.) Main ideas of Transcendentalism: • Particularly interested in the natural world and its relationship to humanity • Believed that if they explored nature thoroughly, they would come to know themselves and the universal truths better • Thought that the human spirit is reflected in nature

  5. Transcendentalism (cont.) • Most important belief of Transcendentalists: all forms of being – God, nature, and humanity – are spiritually united through a shared universal soul or “over-soul” (Emerson)

  6. “Self-Reliance” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  7. “Self-Reliance” “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”

  8. “Self-Reliance” • Envy is ignorance – we are envious of people who have what we don’t – knowledge, talent, etc. • Imitation is suicide – can’t copy somebody else forever • Will not be successful if people do not know who you truly are

  9. “Self-Reliance” • We must accept ourselves as we are; limitations and talents / strengths and weaknesses • Need to know yourself well if you are going to excel / achieve in any area; use the talents you are given because success will only come from your hard work

  10. “Self-Reliance” “We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.” • We are not comfortable in our own skin –it is much easier to copy somebody else than stand alone and be different

  11. “Self-Reliance” • We are not always happy with the talents we are given so we fail to reach our full potential • There is a divine plan for all of us; God put us here at a particular time, in a particular place, for a reason

  12. “Self-Reliance” “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.” • You will not feel good about yourself unless you use your potential wisely and work to develop the talents God gave you

  13. “Self-Reliance” • Your life will feel incomplete until you reach your full potential • You will always wonder, “What if?”

  14. “Self-Reliance” “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” • Your natural instincts/ intuition will take you in the right direction • We cannot hide and be protected our entire lives – at some point we need to decide what our morals and values are, and work to stand by them

  15. “Self-Reliance” “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of everyone of its members.” • Conformity can be viewed as a negative sometimes • Gives people an excuse not to reach their individual potential

  16. “Self-Reliance” “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” • No one can tell you who you really are, therefore you need to figure out your identity and stay true to that. • Do not compromise your values for anyone • Never make a decision unless you are sure you can live with the consequences

  17. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Do not just do something for the sake of tradition, unless it’s something you truly believe in Do not get stuck in a routine and let your life pass you by “Self-Reliance”

  18. “Self-Reliance” “Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today.” • Keep your mind open to change

  19. “Self-Reliance” • Be ready for life’s circumstances to keep on changing, especially when you least expect it • How well you handle change says a lot about who you are and how well you will deal with adversity in your life

  20. “Self-Reliance” “To be great is to be misunderstood.” • All people who have had a profound impact in their fields of expertise have been misunderstood by their peers

  21. “Self-Reliance” • Because the great men Emerson cited knew themselves well, they could pursue their beliefs despite what everyone else around them said. • Without their willingness to push beyond society’s limits, we would not be where we are today

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