Transcendentalism and Civil Disobedience


US History Life Before the Civil War Transcendentalism and Civil Disobedience
Students learn about transcendentalism and the influence that people like Ralph Waldo Emerson had on this movement. Then, students read about Henry David Thoreau and civil disobedience. Finally, students prepare an essay based on a quote from Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience."

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Overview

In this experience, students learn about transcendentalism and the influence that people like Ralph Waldo Emerson had on this movement. Then, students read about Henry David Thoreau and civil disobedience. Finally, students prepare an essay based on a quote from Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience.”​

Objectives:

  • Describe transcendentalism.
  • Describe the reason and impact of Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.”


In the early nineteenth century, many writers and philosophers in New England began a movement that introduced a new way of thinking about society, literature, religion, culture, and philosophy. This movement was called transcendentalism.




Essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson,
a Leader of the American Transcendentalist Movement


Objectives:

  • Describe transcendentalism.
  • Describe the reason and impact of Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.”

The root word of transcendentalism is the word transcend. This root means to rise above or go beyond; to outdo or exceed in excellence. Think about the movement of transcendentalism. What do you think this movement focused on?


Write your thoughts below.

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Discuss with students some of their responses. Mention that transcendentalism is a philosophy that emphasizes the idea that a spiritual state “transcends” a physical state. This spiritual state can only be realized through an individual’s efforts. Mention that in this experience they will be learning about transcendentalism and some of the famous people who supported that movement.


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