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What is Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalist Movement about?
Where did the America we know todayso different in its fundamental views about almost every aspect of life as to be unrecognizable to our countrymen of two centuries agoreally come from? How, for example, did the colonial idea of the classroom as a place devoted to "breaking the will" and "subduing the spirit" of students, change to that of a vibrant, even pleasurable experienceincluding innovations such as kindergarten and recesswith children encouraged to participate actively in their own education? What forces eventually enabled our nation to see slavery as morally abhorrent and unequivocally wrong , when we had once passed a law permitting the capture and return of escaped slaves who managed to make their way to the "free" North? How did the struggle for women's rightsnot just for the right to vote but also to have control over their own aspirations and destiniesgain the momentum to unleash changes still felt today? Why did the once-unassailable power wielded from the pulpit begin to weaken in the 1800s? Why did certain theologies become more liberal and increasing numbers of people choose less dogmatic expressions of faithor even no faith at all? What are the roots of our love for nature, of the near-spiritual experience so many of us now find in the ripple of a stream in the morning sun or the thunderous roar of ocean waves? Finally, and perhaps most important of all, what is the source of our distinctly American way of experiencing ourselvesconfident in our value as individuals, certain of our ability to discover personal truths in the natural world, self-reliant in the face of uncertainty and change? Answers to questions like these are found in and around Boston and the town of Concord, Massachusetts, which became, little more than five decades after the American Revolution, the epicenter of a profoundly influential movement that would reshape many beliefs and make possible the America we know today. That movement is Transcendentalism. Drawing on an array of influences from Europe and the non-Western world, it also offered uniquely American perspectives of thought: an emphasis on the divine in nature, on the value of the individual and intuition, and on belief in a spirituality that might "transcend" one's own sensory experience to provide a more useful guide for daily living than is possible from empirical and logical reasoning.

Genre: Documentary


Season 1 of Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalist Movement

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