Lives of Quiet Desperation: the Transcendentalists vs. America (LIT2420.01)

Benjamin Anastas

In this course we will undertake a comprehensive survey of the Transcendentalist movement through a close examination of the major writings from this tumultuous time in America’s intellectual life. We will read the major figures (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau), as well as a host of lesser known members of the Transcendental Club (Orestes Brownson, Ellery Channing, poet Jones Very). We will also read some of the most withering critiques that the movement inspired, including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s satiric novel of the Utopian Brook Farm community, The Blithedale Romance. Over the semester, we’ll explore the debate the movement set off among thinkers of the time and come to a deeper understanding of Transcendentalism itself, not just as a philosophical ideal, but as a radical new way of living that only could have flowered in the roiling America of the mid-­1800s. Slavery in the South and appeasement in the “free” North; the slaughter and forced migration of Native American peoples; foreign wars that drained the national coffers and snuffed out human lives; the triumph of profiteering and financial speculation—these are just some of the preoccupations that made the Transcendentalists dissidents in their own country.


Learning Outcomes:
Students in this course will develop their own capacities to do the following:
--Perform close readings of both primary and scholarly texts and subject them to a sophisticated analysis.
-- Write clearly and persuasively about the texts they encounter and the ideas that animate them.
--Develop and communicate their own ideas as literary citizens in class discussion, in both critical and creative writing assignments, and in oral presentations.
--Conduct independent and collaborative research projects using library materials, online databases, and other sources.




Delivery Method: Remotely accessible
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 10:00AM - 11:50AM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: Literature , Remotely Accessible , All courses
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