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ENG250Y1 - R. Emerson & H.D. Thoreau - Lecture Notes.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Tony Fong

ENG250Y1 – LECTURE NOTES October 7, 2013: Introduction  These are transcendentalism narratives  Transcendentalists opposed realism  Believed in the unity of the world and god, there is an equation between the world, god is found externally within everything  Movement began in 1856 roughly  Key element of thought was the rejection of past doctrines, this included documents on politics, religion and philosophy  Sources: o Romanticism, platonic philosophy and germanic idealism  Germanic idealism:  From Kant  A prior = prior to experience, the truths are already within us  Emerson focuses on the unit, a true union between god and man  Unitarism rejected Calvinism o Romanticism:  Emerson was influenced by this movement  Beauty and divinity is found in nature  Privilege in the everyday, a poetry of the people o Platonic philosophy:  Phenomena (touch) vs. noumena (intuition)  only a few are capable of noumena  Both are considered knowledge  Rejects Calvinism (born with sin)  Rejects rationalism (Hume and Locke) Ralph Emerson Biography:  Thought of as the New England author  Was more theoretical compared to Thoreau  Regards the individual as the centre of the universe Ralph Emerson's The American Scholar:  Represents the entire movement  Alienates the readers in order to get them to the destination or conclusion they need to reach  Framing his speech in a conventional manner and in the middle, his speech was confrontational  Pg 537 "it is one of those fables …. parrot of other men's thinking" o The fable alludes to the myth that humans were born with 2 heads and 4 arms and zeus decided to split them in order to humble them o Reminiscent of J. Winthrop in terms of the body/mouth analogy, about collectivism o Platonic fable, allusion to Plato, demonstrates the possibility of union  Influences of the American scholar: o Nature  In seeing the sublimity of nature, one can see the sublimity of the self  See the grandness of one own's soul  Refers to solipsism = only one's self and experiences exist, doubts that the past exists, a moment-to-moment thinking, god is reflected onto us  Knowledge is only derived from within  Pg 538 "by and by … a law of the human mind?"  The self relying object is described as a tyrant, but is described positively because unifying everything is necessary  Focus is on the power of the self to assert unity o Books and history  Respiratory of the past  Warns readers to not allow the book to guide them, not to tyrannize them  Must have good character to control the book's influence  Reading  Must read critically  Reads what relative and forget the rest  Read the book as an extension of the self  You become the writer when you read the sentences and create your own interpretations  Diction shows that the reader is also a creator, which is why it is necessary to tyrannize over the books and not vice versa 
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