History 2104: American Environmental History
7 September 2005

ROMANTICISM AND TRANSCENDENTALISM

1. Early American Attitudes toward Nature and Wilderness (a recap)

2. Romanticism (for more details, see Nash, chapter 3)

a. literary, artistic, and philosophical movement (flourished late 18th and early 19th cent.)
b. reaction against the Enlightenment: neo-classicism, mechanism, and rationalism
c. some general characteristics associated with

-primacy of imagination and emotion
-primitivism
-attraction to the mysterious, fantasy, picturesque, sublime
-**appreciation for nature**

d. the “Romantic complex” (according to Nash)

-the sublime
-evokes awe, terror, dread, delight, and majesty
-examples: mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, thunderstorms
-often Christianized: provoke ideas of God and infinite power
-primitivism
-Jean-Jacques Rousseau (mid-18th century French philosopher)
-Deism
-God the First Cause of the universe (but does not continue to intervene)
-nature manifests God’s power and majesty (natural theology)

e. Romanticism/nature appreciation begins in cities (removed from physical threat)

-revulsion against nature/wilderness still seems predominant

f. Nash provides a number of examples (e.g., William Bartram)
g. often attracted to middle ground--pastoralism, rural, arcadia

3. Transcendentalism (see Nash, chapter 5 for more details)

a. uniquely American manifestation of Romantic movement (flourished ca. 1830-1850)
b. form of idealism: nature as means to higher spiritual truth and self-renewal
c. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)
d. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

-protege of Emerson
-lives on Walden Pond (26 months, beginning July 4, 1845)
-Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854)
-concerned about spread of commercial spirit/technological society
-values wilderness butfrightened by implications of “pure” wilderness: Mt. Katahdin, Maine (1846)
-seeks some kind of middle ground (wilderness/civilization spectrum)
-continuing influence

4. Discussion of Thoreau’s “Walking”