LITR 5431 Seminar in American Literature: Romanticism

lecture notes


Emerson, Nature

1 original relationship to universe; revelation, not history

2 nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us

3 curiosity inside, order outside

4 to a sound judgment, the most abstract truth is the most practical.

5 Nature / Soul. Will > Art


ch 1 Nature

6 alone, stars, sublime

8 natural objects / mind, influence

9 stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet; integrity of impression

10 few adult persons can see nature; shines into the eye and heart of the child

11 wild delight

11 every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind,

12 man, child, woods, perpetual youth

13 part or particle of God

14 an occult [mysterious] relation between man and the vegetable [plants]. [<correspondence>]

15 harmony of both [correspondence]


Ch 3 Beauty

16 a well colored and shaded globe


Ch 5 Discipline

[17] . . . every natural process is a version of a moral sentence. The moral law lies at the centre of nature and radiates to the circumference.

17 What is a farm but a mute gospel?

17 catalogs

18 unity in variety [metaphysics]


ch 8 Prospects

19 highest reason

19 Empirical science is apt to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of functions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly contemplation of the whole.

19 a dream may let us deeper into the secret of nature than a hundred concerted experiments.

20 all thought of multitude is lost in a tranquil sense of unity

20 I cannot greatly honor minuteness in details, so long as there is no hint to explain the relation between things and thoughts

20 a certain occult recognition and sympathy in regard to the most unwieldly and eccentric forms of beast, fish, and insect

"Man is one world, and hath another to attend him." [Romantic metaphysics: x-here & now implies another world; cf. religion]

draws men to science, but the end is lost sight of in attention to the means

22 man = god in ruins

23 understanding alone [cf. mechanics]

24 darkness, gleams of a better light

24 reason as well as understanding

24 a power which exists not in time or space, but an instantaneous in-streaming causing power.

25 restoring to the world original and eternal beauty, is solved by the redemption of the soul.

25 Kindle science with the fire of the holiest affections, then will God go forth anew into the creation.

26 see miraculous in common

26 the real higher law

27 the world exists for you

28 Build, therefore, your own world.

28 So fast will disagreeable appearances, swine, spiders, snakes, pests, madhouses, prisons, enemies, vanish; they are temporary and shall be no more seen. The sordor and filths of nature, the sun shall dry up, and the wind exhale.



Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government

2 government = machinery

4 not no govt, but a better govt

5 majority as power, not right

> conscience? (Romantic individualism)

6 corporation no conscience, but what if conscientious men? [context of separation of church and state]

7 men as machines [cf. Mr. Gore]

7 conscience = resistance

8 slaveís govt does not equal my govt

9 slavery + Mexican war + 10

11 not politicians but merchants and farmers

11 comparison to Washington and Franklin

12 vote = feeble wish

13 donít have to fight, but canít support wrong

13 by their money, furnished a substitute

15 if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law

17 if God on oneís side, no need for majority

18 refusal to pay taxes > abolish slavery

19 Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison

19 minority powerful when it clogs

20 voluntary simplicity x property as compromise

20 rich man sold to institution that makes him rich

21 live within yourself, not have many affairs [voluntary simplicity]

21 riches and honors as subjects of shame

22 "Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any society which I have not joined."

23 As they could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog. [state as organization of violence]

24 I am not responsible for the successful working of the machinery of society. I am not the son of the engineer.

24 higher law

24 If a plant cannot live according to nature, it dies; and so a man.

28 like traveling in a far country

28 romance images

30 cf RVW

30 alienation from society

31 huckleberry party [define]

31 freedom in nature x prison state

33 quietly declare war with the State, after my fashion

38 lower, higher, highest point of view

42 higher; romance journey

44 individual as a higher and independent authority


 Emerson, Thoreau


Add that both lived in Concord + map

Voluntary simplicity, counter-Dream

Counter-evolutionary imperatives

Review Woolman


2 iconoclast definition

3 I would not do again what I have done once (invented pencil) [x-industrial model of replication, mass production, high profit]

4 making every day some new acquaintance with Nature, though as yet never speaking of zoology or botany . . . incurious of technical and textual science [cf. Whitman and astronomer] [cf. Emerson, Nature, 20]

5 refuse all the accustomed paths and keep his solitary freedom at the cost of disappointing the natural expectations of his family and friends

5 probity definition

6 a much more comprehensive calling, the art of living well.

6 never idle or self-indulgent; few wants

7 drift into the profession of land-surveyor

9 practice define as way of living

9 He interrogated every custom, and wished to settle all his practice on an ideal foundation

9 [negative catalog]

9 no temptations to fight against,óno appetites, no passions, no taste for elegant trifles.

10 as if he did not feel himself except in opposition

11 company of young people, huckleberry party [cf. Resistance] huckleberry = berry plant kin to blueberry

11 cf. classic and popular literature

12 refs to Walden and Resistance

13 of no consequence if every one present held the opposite opinion.

14 No truer American

14 The men were all imitating each other, and on a small mould. Why can they not live as far apart as possible, and each be a man by himself?

15 abolition of slavery, abolition of tariffs, almost for abolition of government [negative catalog]

16 wonderful fitness of body and mind

17 The Betrothed 1825

17 He had always a new resource.

18 only man of leisure

18 anecdote

21 extolling his own town and neighborhood as the most favored center for natural observation

22 the best place for each is where he stands

23 paths of his own

25 homage solely to the truth itself

26 every circumstance touching the Indian

27 likeness of law throughout Nature [transcendentalism]

29 paltering = insincere talk

29 dangerous frankness

30 instead of engineering for all America, he was the captain of a huckleberry party

30 Emersonís exasperation

31 cities = refinements and artifices

33-41 aphorisms

43 a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world


Fuller  (romance) 27   4, 7, 16 (limits), 25 (expansion), 27, 29

Fuller Historical

1 post-Revolutionary America cf. France

2 the red man, the black man

3 Romanticism / Transcendentalism

Organic metaphor

USA as great moral law

4 all men equal as ideal, guide, golden certainty

28 negro / woman

One law for all souls


Fuller Formal / Transcendentalism

examples of formal study: gothic conventions, light / dark (relocatable to different historical circumstances)

3 Romanticism / Transcendentalism

Organic metaphor

USA as great moral law

4 all men equal as ideal, guide, golden certainty

28 negro / woman

Spheres as inherited / transformed form: 7, 16, 27

58 higher grade of marriage, the religious

63 obstructions removed

66 Trans


Reading notes:

1 post-Revolutionary America cf. France

2 highlight promise of heaven

2 the red man, the black man

3 Romanticism / Transcendentalism

Organic metaphor

USA as great moral law

4 all men equal as ideal, guide, golden certainty

5 abolition + women

7 lower-font businessman

Correspondence of national union / family union

Sphere; cf head-heart in 8

8 Have you asked her?

Head of my house

16 model-woman, womanís sphere

19 private action in womanís favor > legal protection

20 infinite soul in limits (repression, captivity)

Publicly represented by women

21 private influence, pen

22 inner circle

24 Quaker preachers [preview Mott]

25 expansion

27 every arbitrary barrier thrown down

Regulate spheres > ravishing harmony

28 negro / woman

One law for all souls

31 temple of immortal intellect

32 self-dependence; cf. Emerson self-reliance; cf. 34

Faith and self-respect

40 sexes correspond + prophesy

46 equality

47 household partnership

49 intellectual companionship

50 Trans form

54 partners in work and in life, sharing together, on equal terms, public and private interests

58 higher grade of marriage, the religious

63 obstructions removed

66 Trans

67 old maids

69-72 alternative genders, extended family relations

79 great radical dualism

82 Trans form: too much in relations, renovating fountains


88 men do not look at both sides; women retire within themselves

90 woman belongs to man instead of forming a whole with him


Discussion for US-Mexican War & Seguin: The American literary canon has expanded and diversified to include different genders, races, and classes, and courses in Multicultural Literature and Contemporary American Literature frequently feature leading Hispanic and Mexican American Authors.

But the further back in American literary history one goes, the more challenging such inclusiveness becomes. Why? What historical factors in American and Mexican literary history? What are the possibilities for including earlier Mexican American literature?

geographical separation--early American literature concentrated in East, esp. Northeast--as far as one can get from the Southwest

language differences--early USA

Is this a problem? Protestantism emphasized personal literacy more than the Catholic church.

limited knowledge: Mexican Americans participated in Southwest journalism in mid- to late-1800s, but how much counts as literature?

Does Seguin count as literature or as history?



9 slavery + Mexican war + 10




1 caught in middle, dark intrigues, jealousy

3 Texan war for independence, also many bad men

4 scum of society

4 foreigners x countrymen

5 smuggling

6 elected mayor

6 Republic re-allocates city property

13 Seguin is with us.

16 reports about my pretended treason

16 some Americans were murdering Curbier

17 hiding from rancho to rancho

20 before leaving my country, perhaps forever

21 ungrateful Americans

22 my services paid by persecutions



 More explicitly, a generation or two ago Texas school curricula for a majority-white student population would not likely have included Seguin but instead would have elevated Anglo-Texians like Stephen F. Austin or Sam Houston. How has the narrative or characterization of Texas changed with its population? How prepared are teachers to tell a story that includes Anglos, Mexicans, Indians, and African Americans? What about the moral trade-offs involved in such stories?

dangers of defensiveness, retrenchment

lower grades: teach critical thinking or "it's all great?"

border studies

Gloria Anzaldua