Transcendentalist


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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Transcendentalist

 

a member of the 19th-century American literary and philosophical movement of Transcendentalism. The Transcendentalists founded the Transcendental Club in Boston in 1836.

The acknowledged leader of Transcendentalism was R. W. Emerson, and the group’s most prominent members included the writers, critics, and social reformers H. Thoreau, G. Ripley, T. Parker, Margaret Fuller, and Elizabeth Peabody. Influenced by the German idealist philosophy of Kant and Hegel, as well as by the English romantics Coleridge and Carlyle, the Transcendentalists criticized bourgeois civilization from a romantic standpoint. They opposed to the world of avarice and vanity an ideal of individual self-perfection and spiritual freedom, which could be achieved through a pantheist contemplation of nature and the study of the humanities.

Transcendentalism was an individualist movement that attracted followers owing to its ethical spirit. Seeking to put their ideals into practice, in 1840 the Transcendentalists founded the Brook Farm community, which had about 100 members and was modeled after Fourier’s phalanstery. The disintegration of the community in 1847, which proved that the social program of the Transcendentalists was completely Utopian, was followed by a split in the movement. Some of the Transcendentalists were prominent abolitionists. Transcendentalism ceased to exist after the Civil War (1861–65).

REFERENCES

Istoriia amerikanskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Bruks, V. V. Pisatel’ i amerikanskaia zhizn’, vol. 1. Moscow, 1967.
Transcendentalism and Its Legacy. Edited by M. Simon and T. H. Parsons. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1966.

V. A. KHARITONOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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