America, Past, Present & Future Term Paper

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Emerson believed that the broader culture could rid itself of slavery through moral persuasion. At the beginning of the renaissance, Emerson "maintained that reform was best achieved by the moral persuasion of individuals rather than by the militant action of groups," (Lowance, 2000, 301). but, in the years immediately leading up to the Civil War, Emerson's philosophy collided with reality. In 1855, he wrote and delivered his Lecture on Slavery, in which he writes, "I call slavery and the tolerance it finds...[a] stupendous frivolity [that] betrays in the heart and head a society without faith, without aims, dying of inanition...The Dark Ages did not know that they were dark; and what if it should turn out, that our material civilization has no sun, but only ghastly gas-lights?," (Emerson, Emerson's Anti-Slavery Writings, 1995, 93) He believed, finally, as did his fellow Transcendentalists that the slavery culture was not one borne of individualism, but of a corruption of that very nature - both slaves and those in sympathy with the slavery culture were equally bound by the same evil. Transcendentalism's rather tame, go with the flow of nature, core fell absolutely apart when thrown at slavery...and thus the renaissance ended. With war came a new generation of writers who owed their gentility to Emerson, but found that realism was more important than philosophy - as a way of dealing with the new world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's contribution to American literature is well founded and well understood. His friends and peers understood that America was much more than a nation founded by Puritans and opportunists, that it had become a nation of intellectualism, of individualism, of freedom. In all of the great works of literature that came out of the American Renaissance, we can hear the echoes of Emerson's essays. Ultimately, Emerson's influence has continued to be felt in our archetypal understanding of what it means to be American - we are the pioneers, the cowboys, the leaders, the heroes.

Bibliography

Emerson, R.W. (1995). Emerson's Anti-Slavery Writings. (J. Myerson, Ed.) New York: Yale University Press.

Emerson, R.W. (1909). Nature. Boston: Duffield.

Emerson, R.W. (1993). Self-Reliance and Other Essays. New York: Courier Dover Publications.

Emerson, R.W. (1904). The Conduct of Life. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Lowance, M.I. (2000). Against Slavery: An Abolitionist Reader. New York: Penguin Classics.

Mathhiessen, F.O. (1968). American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Thoreau. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mitchell, V. (1997). Emerson's Self-Reliance. The Explicator, 55 (2), 79-80.

Morse, D. (1986). American Romanticism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Rosa, a.F.…

Sources Used in Document:

Bibliography

Emerson, R.W. (1995). Emerson's Anti-Slavery Writings. (J. Myerson, Ed.) New York: Yale University Press.

Emerson, R.W. (1909). Nature. Boston: Duffield.

Emerson, R.W. (1993). Self-Reliance and Other Essays. New York: Courier Dover Publications.

Emerson, R.W. (1904). The Conduct of Life. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

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