Self Reliance and Other Essays

Trancendentalism and Its Influence Upon the Creation of an American Identity

With the end of the civil war in America came the huge task of inventing a national identity. America wished to cut its European ties, and forge a new voice through literature, as it is through the word that a nation expresses itself. However even though the literature at the time was American in content, the form was European. A cultural distinction was necessary to elevate America's status in the world, and this could be found through the embracing of America's wholly individual landscape, using it as a creative force that would work on how Americans thought and wrote. Emerson and Thoreau perceived forging an identity as first and foremost changing their relationship to nature, and by using a philosophical prose believed they could influence the creation of an entirely individual nation.

Emerson wished to extend his transcendental idea of the world by writing of the timeless ideas of nature, the universe and the human being that mixed with specific historical moments, and the state of society and its relationship to the individual. Emerson believed that by reasserting the idea of the spirit it would be possible to discover a realm of experience beyond the reach of conventional thought. The material nature of society...

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