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Defining Transcendentalism 美国文学

2010年08月17日  所属:英美文学  来源:上外  作者:英语学院

英美文学之美国文学资料笔记:Defining Transcendentalism。

Defining Transcendentalism:

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his 1842 lecture The Transcendentalist:
"The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual openness of the human mind to new influx of light and power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy. He wishes that the spiritual principle should be suffered to demonstrate itself to the end, in all possible applications to the state of man, without the admission of anything unspiritual; that is, anything positive, dogmatic, personal. Thus, the spiritual measure of inspiration is the depth of the thought, and never, who said it? And so he resists all attempts to palm other rules and measures on the spirit than its own....
"It is well known to most of my audience, that the Idealism of the present day acquired the name of Transcendental, from the use of that term by Immanuel Kant, of Konigsberg, who replied to the skeptical philosophy of Locke, which insisted that there was nothing in the intellect which was not previously in the experience of the senses, by showing that there was a very important class of ideas, or imperative forms, which did not come by experience, but through which experience was acquired; that these were intuitions of the mind itself; and he denominated them Transcendental forms. The extraordinary profoundness and precision of that man's thinking have given vogue to his nomenclature, in Europe and America, to that extent, that whatever belongs to the class of intuitive thought, is popularly called at the present day Transcendental...."
 
Even more than most "isms," American Transcendentalism defies neat definition, now and in the nineteenth century. A loose collection of eclectic ideas about literature, philosophy, religion, social reform, and the general state of American culture, transcendentalism had different meanings for each person involved in the movement, including those who attended the Transcendental Club. Even today it is difficult to say definitively whom can be considered a transcendentalist, and readers still might disagree about the ideas and legacy of this distinctively American movement with so many foreign roots. Yet all agree that that transcendentalism, however defined, did flourish, primarily in Concord and Boston, in the nineteenth century and that its influence on American culture and literary was profound.
 
Here, then, is a range of definitions, most of which--appropriately--reflect those who are defining to some degree.
 
1. "The spirit of the time is in every form a protest against usage and a search for principles." - Emerson in the opening number of The Dial.
2. "I was given to understand that whatever was unintelligible would be certainly Transcendental." - Charles Dickens in American Notes
3. "I should have told them at once that I was a transcendentalist. That would have been the shortest way of telling them that they would not understand my explanations." - Thoreau, Journal, V:4
4. "The word Transcendentalism, as used at the present day, has two applications. One of which is popular and indefinite, the other, philosophical and precise. In the former sense it describes man, rather than opinions, since it is freely extended to those who hold opinions, not only diverse from each other, but directly opposed." - Noah Porter, 1842
5. Transcendentalism is the recognition in man of the capacity of knowing truth intuitively, or of attaining a scientific knowledge of an order of existence transcending the reach of the senses, and of which we can have no sensible experience." - J. A. Saxton, Dial II: 90
6. "Literally a passing beyond all media in the approach to the Deity, Transcendentalism contained an effort to establish, mainly by the discipline of the intuitive faculty, direct intercourse between the soul and God." - Charles J. Woodbury in Talks with Ralph Waldo Emerson
 7. "Transcendentalism was not ... speculative, but essentially practical and reformatory." - John Orr in "The Transcendentalism of New England," International Review, XIII: 390
8. "Transcendentalism was a distinct philosophical system. Practically it was an assertion of the inalienable worth of man; theoretically it was an assertion of the immanence of divinity in instinct, the transference of supernatural attributes to the natural constitution of mankind. ... Transcendentalism is usually spoken of as a philosophy. It is more justly regarded as a gospel. As a philosophy it is ... so far from uniform, that it may rather be considered several systems than one. ... Transcendentalism was ... an enthusiasm, a wave of sentiment, a breath of mind." - O. B. Frothingham in Transcendentalism in New England, 1876
9. "The problem of transcendental philosophy is no less than this, to revise the experience of mankind and try its teachings by the nature of mankind, to test ethics by conscience, science by reason; to try the creeds of the churches, the constitution of the states, by the constitution of the universe." - Theodore Parker in Works VI: 37
10. "We feel it to be a solemn duty to warn our readers, and in our measure, the public, against this German atheism, which the spirit of darkness is employing ministers of the gospel to smuggle in among us under false pretenses." Princeton Review XII: 71
11. "Protestantism ends in Transcendentalism." - Orestes Brownson in Works, 209
12. "The fundamentals of Transcendentalism are to be felt as sentiments, or grasped by the imagination as poetical wholes, rather than set down in propositions." - Cabot, A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1887, I: 248
13. "First and foremost, it can only be rightly conceived as an intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual ferment, not a strictly reasoned doctrine. It was a renaissance of conscious, living faith in the power of reason, in the reality of spiritual insight, in the privilege, beauty, and glory of life." - Frances Tiffany, "Transcendentalism: The New England Renaissance," Unitarian Review, XXXI: 111.
14. "(Transcendentalism was) a blending of Platonic metaphysics and the Puritan spirit, of a philosophy and a character ... taking place at a definite time, in a specially fertilized soil, under particular conditions." - H. C. Goddard, Studies in New England Transcendentalism, 1908.
15. "If I were a Bostonian, I think I would be a Transcendentalist." - Charles Dickens in American Notes 


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