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The Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and his critic Edgar Allan Poe

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2010 17 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature

Excerpt

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Emerson & the Transcendentalism
2.1 The Transcendentalism – a short overview
2.2 Ralph Waldo Emerson – his role and beliefs in Transcendentalism
2.3 The animadversion on Transcendentalism and Emerson

3 Analysis I: „Give All To Love“ by Ralph Waldo Emerson
3.1 Analysis of „Give All To Love“
3.2 Typical elements of Transcendentalism in the poem

4 Analysis II: „The Fall of the House of Usher“ by Edgar Allan Poe

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography

1 Introduction

The Transcendentalism was not an undisputable movement. It had numerous different influences and strong and sometimes even radical beliefs which did not only evoke sympathy and understanding. Especially Ralph Waldo Emerson, on of the most important person of this movement, was critized for his ideas.[1] Some contemporary artists, like Edgar Allan Poe, even had cravings to murder some Transcendentalists[2] – although this statement probably has to be seen in regard to Poe's common irony. Poe and other authors used their work to express their distaste for Transcendentalism and tried to ridicule it, for example by exaggeration.[3]

In this term paper, I will answer the following question: What are the typical elements of Transcendentalism in Emerson's Poetry and how are they ridiculed by Edgar Allan Poe? To answer this question, I chose Emerson's poem „Give All To Love“. In my analysis of the poem, I will show that it contains a lot of typical elements of Transcendentalism, which is the reason why I chose this particular poem of Emerson. The work of Poe I will use is his short-story „The Fall of the House of Usher“. There are several works of Poe where he tries to ridicule Transcendentalism, but I chose this short-story since it is probably his most famous one.

Concerning my secondary literature, I tried to find a mixture of classical references, like „Literary Transcendentalism“ by Lawrence Buell, and of new and rather fresh internet-sources. To achieve a high level of reliability for my internet-sources, I almost only used homepages of american universities. With this mixture, I want to demonstrate that the topic of my term paper has been, and still is, relevant to literary studies.

I will start with a chapter about the Transcendentalism in general, the role of Emerson and name some of the criticism of Transcendentalism. The third chapter is concerned with a detailed analysis of the poem „Give All To Love“ by Emerson after which I will point out the typical transcendental elements in the poem. In chapter four, I will analyse Poe's short-story „The Fall of the House of Usher“ with regard to the research question and look for ridicule of Transcendentalism. I will close my term paper in the fifth chapter with a conclusion and will subsume, if and how my research question has been answered throughout the paper.

2 Emerson & the Transcendentalism

In this chapter, I will give a short overview of the the Transcendentalism, explain the role of Emerson in this movement and, closing, name some of the criticism of Transcendentalism.

2.1 The Transcendentalism – a short overview

The Transcendentalism arose as a reaction against or a counterpart to the 18th-century rationalism between 1836 and 1860. The name Transcendentalism stem from the german philosopher Immanuel Kant and his Critique of Practical Reason. In this work, Kant said: „I call all knowledge transcendental which is concerned, not with objects, but with our mode of knowing objects so far as this is possible a priori.“[4] It was influenced not only by Kant, but by many other philosophers and writers like Fichte, Goethe, Novalis and also Plato, Confucius and the Buddhists. The Transcendentalists believed in the union of God and the world, that everything in the world results from God, and God can be found in everything. This includes the soul of every human being, in which divinity is present.[5] Because of the belief in their own divine soul, the Transcendentalists developed a strong self-reliance and individualism beyond „external authority, tradition, and logical demonstration“[6] which resulted in „the absolute optimism of the movement“.[7]

2.2 Ralph Waldo Emerson – his role and beliefs in Transcendentalism

An important representative for the Transcendentalism was Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). He was a founder of the Transcendental Club in 1836, a meeting point for intellectuals in New England like Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and Henry William Chunning. Emerson published some important works for the movement, such as the essays „Nature“ (1836) and „Self-Reliance“ (1841) and the poems „Concord Hymn“ (1836) and „The Rhodora“ (1847).[8] Emerson was a very optimistic man and did not believe that anything evil existed in the world.[9]

2.3 The animadversion on Transcendentalism and Emerson

Not only these very optimistic and maybe even naive-like beliefs of Emerson evoked criticism.[10] Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne are just some of the critics of Transcendentalism. Hawthorne, for example, wrote his novel „The Blithedale Romance“ about his experience of living with Transcendentalists in a new-formed community whose members he found to be hypocriticial and too idealistic.[11] Poe, too, used his writings to declare his dislike of the Transcendentalism, for instance in his satires „How to Write a Blackwood Article“ and „Never Bet the Devil Your Head“. In his eyes, the Transcendentalists used too many euphemisms, metaphors and tend to slide into „‘obscurity for obscurity's sake’ or ‘mysticism for mysticism's sake’“.[12] He espcially disliked their magazine „The Dial“; he once said that „he would like to hang the editor of The Dial“.[13]

After this brief overview of Transcendentalism, Emerson and the criticism, the next chapter is concerned with Emerson's poem „Give All To Love“.

3 Analysis I: „Give All To Love“ by Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this chapter, I will start with a detailed analysis of Emerson's poem. Afterwards, I will present the typical elements of Transcendentalism that can be found in „Give All To Love“ and thereby answer the first part of my research question.

3.1 Analysis of „Give All To Love“

„Give All To Love“ is a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, first published in 1846. It is a transcendental poem with irregular rhyme scheme and metre. The poem has 6 stanzas, each with 6-10 lines, almost all of them end-stopped lines. The title „Give All To Love“ refers to the advice that the poem contains: that the addressee should give everything for love and for his loved ones. The speaker talks about the best way to „handle“ love and the needed requirements like courage. What the title does not contain is the fact, that to the speaker there is a limit. Not a limit of what to give or leave when one is in love, but to stop instantly and entirely if the love of one in the relationship is changed or gone.

The poem can be divided into two parts. In the first part (stanza 1-3) the speaker talks about successful and answered love between two people, in the second part (stanza 4-6) he talks about failed love. The first stanza explains to the addressee what to give for and to love without boundaries. The second stanza personalizes love and shows how it evolves if given everything by the addressee. In the third stanza, the speaker talks about the requirements and the commitment of the addressee to experience love and how he will be rewarded for that effort. The fourth stanza starts again with an advice about what to do for love, but then changes and tells the addressee to give up on love if he should encounter not to be entirely in love anymore. The same reaction applies to a change of heart of the addressee's maid, as explained in stanza 5. Concluding, in the sixth stanza the speaker explains that, despite the pain of the lost love, there is hope and improvement.

[...]


[1] Boller, Jr., Paul F. 1974. American Transcendentalism, 1830-1860. An Intellectual Inquiry. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.: 145

[2] Ibid.: 141

[3] Ibid.: 139 ff.

[4] Hart, James D. [ed.]. 1965. Transcendentalism. The Oxford Companion to American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Richardson, Jr., Robert D. [n.d.]. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Department of Philosophy of the Brandeis University of Waltham. 16 Jan. 2010. <http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/emersonbio.html>

[9] The Academy of American Poets [n.d.]. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Poets.org from the Academy of American Poets. 16 Jan. 2010. <http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/201>

[10] The Academy of American Poets [n.d.]. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Poets.org from the Academy of American Poets. 16 Jan. 2010. <http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/201>

[11] Canada, Mark. 2002. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dark Romantic. Department of English and Theatre of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. 16 Jan. 2010. <http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/markport/lit/amlit1/fall2002/10hawth.htm>

; McFarland, Philip. 2004. Hawthorne in Concord. New York: Grove Press.: 149.

[12] Hayes, Kevin J. [ed.]. 2002. The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.: 15, 61

[13] Boller, Jr., Paul F. 1974. American Transcendentalism, 1830-1860. An Intellectual Inquiry. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.: 140

Details

Pages
17
Year
2010
ISBN (eBook)
9783640581702
ISBN (Book)
9783640581900
File size
564 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v148231
Institution / College
RWTH Aachen University
Grade
3,0
Tags
Ralph Waldo Emerson Transcendentalism Transcendentalist Edgar Allan Poe The Fall Of The House Of Usher

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Title: The Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson  and his critic Edgar Allan Poe