Transatlantic Transcendentalism: Coleridge, Emerson, and Nature

Transatlantic Transcendentalism: Coleridge, Emerson, and Nature

Transatlantic Transcendentalism: Coleridge, Emerson, and Nature

Transatlantic Transcendentalism: Coleridge, Emerson, and Nature

Synopsis

Demonstrates that Coleridge's influence on Emerson constituted a vital link in Transatlantic Transcendentalism. This new study argues that Coleridge was so influential in America because he provided a framework for American intellectuals to address one of the great questions of European Romanticism: what is the relationship between the Romantic triad of nature, spirit and humanity? As Samantha Harvey shows, Coleridge's thought galvanized Ralph Waldo Emerson and influenced two revolutionary movements: Boston Transcendentalism and the lesser known Vermont Transcendentalism of James Marsh. Both movements had a widespread influence on American letters and institutions, impacting the course of higher education, the national press, and the emergence of a distinctive and independent American literature and philosophy.

Excerpt

Every man’s progress is through a succession of teachers, each of whom seems
at the time to have a superlative influence, but it at last gives place to a new.
Frankly let him accept it all. Jesus says, Leave father, mother, house and lands,
and follow me. Who leaves all, receives more. This is as true intellectually,
as morally. Each new mind we approach, seems to require an abdication of
all our past and present possessions. A new doctrine seems, at first, a subver
sion of all our opinions, tastes, and manner of living. Such has Swedenborg,
such has Kant, such has Coleridge, such has Hegel or his interpreter Cousin,
seemed to many young men in this country. Take thankfully and heartily all
they can give. Exhaust them, wrestle with them, let them not go until their
blessing be won, and after a short season, the dismay will be overpast, the
excess of influence withdrawn, and they will be no longer an alarming meteor,
but one more bright star shining serenely in your heaven, and blending its
light with all your day. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

[Coleridge] has a tone a little lower than greatness – but what a living soul,
what a universal knowledge! I like to encounter these citizens of the universe,
that believe the mind was made to be spectator of all, inquisitor of all, and
whose philosophy compares with others much as astronomy with the other
sciences, taking post at the centre and, as from a specular mount, sending sov
ereign glances to the circumference of things…But there are few or no books
of pure literature so self-imprinting…so often remembered as Coleridge’s.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The purpose of this book is to illuminate the most important transatlantic source for Emerson and the development of American Transcendentalism:

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