Kaplan justin walt whitman a life supplementary

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Kaplan, Justin. Walt Whitman: A Life . Supplementary Reading: Loving, Jerome. Walt Whitman: Song of Himself . Questions to Consider: 1. Whitman calls his own poetry a “barbaric yawp.” Does he mean that as a compliment to himself or an insult? Why? 2. America has arguably produced more individualistic writers than England or perhaps even Europe. Why is this the case? ©2006 The Teaching Company Limited Partnership 31
Lecture Twenty-Three Transcendentalism’s 19 th -Century Legacy Scope: The significance of Transcendentalism, as we have seen, reached much wider than its impact on literary figures. Ideas about education, many of which influenced public education and experimental forms of private education, helped to change the intellectual lives of many Americans. Educational institutions, while not all equally advanced or revolutionary, tended to move toward the acknowledgment that student- centered education might have advantages over the strict authoritarianism of the past. While votes for women would await the 20 th century, the expansion of their rights began in earnest during these years. Periodical journalism underwent important changes because of such publications as The Dial , The Western Messenger , and The North Star . Religious denominations grew, in general, to be more expansive and tolerant. American pragmatism and modern psychology emerged in different ways from a belief in the power of the individual intellect and its connection to a wider social reality. In short, the abstract ideas of Transcendentalism often made their way directly into practical solutions to social problems ranging from religious institutions to school classrooms. Outline I. The initial and often-noticed legacy of Transcendentalism was its immediate impact on the liberalization of American theology. A. Most Transcendentalists questioned traditional religious dogma and ritual, as well as the details of Christian theology. 1. They generally accepted the idea that there might be many ways to practice faith, and they especially worried over the fear-based restrictiveness of puritanical Calvinists and conservative Congregationalists. 2. They argued over specifics but agreed that Christianity wanted reformation. 3. At one extreme, such thinkers as Emerson and Thoreau left the organized church altogether; at the other, they found their way back to orthodox denominations. B. There were a number of religious figures we have not discussed in detail, each of whom reminds us of the range and reach of Transcendentalist ideas and actions. 1. Frederick Henry Hedge (1805–1890) was a Unitarian minister who helped to introduce others to the ideas of Coleridge and German philosophers. For a time, the Transcendentalist Club was known as “Hedge’s Club,” but by the 1840s, he fell out with members over their increasing liberalism. 2. Orestes Brownson (1803–1876) was a philosopher and minister who disappointed many of his Unitarian friends when he converted to Catholicism.

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