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Great Lives: The Transcendentalists

March 9, 2023 @ 7:30 pm

The Transcendentalists

Lecture Date: March 9, 2023

The Dovetail Cultural Resource Group Lecture

Transcendentalism is widely regarded as the first great intellectual movement of the new American republic. Yet, it arrived in the United States in the mid-1830s as a foreign import in language that many Americans found obscure and unintelligible. Within a few years the new philosophy was identified with the Boston area, and its epicenter was the small town of Concord, sixteen miles west of the state capitol. There Ralph Waldo Emerson, his protégé Henry David Thoreau, his friends Amos Bronson Alcott and Margaret Fuller, and a steady stream of acolytes put Concord on the map as a literary center. It became the home of the American Renaissance – a counterpart to Renaissance Florence and Goethe’s Weimer.

Why Concord, a small town of some 2,000 souls in 1830, devoted to farming, crafts, and commerce? This lecture will explore how Emerson, a Bostonian with family roots in Concord, and Thoreau, the only native son in the Concord group, drew on observations and experiences of the local scene to inform, inspire, and illustrate their novel ways of seeing and interpreting American life. Their joint biographies reveal the challenges facing individuals in a rapidly changing society. Seeking for new ways to comprehend the relation between individual and community, the Concord Transcendentalists articulated a fresh ideal of the self, in harmony with nature, on which a characteristically American philosophy of individualism, democratic and egalitarian, could be based. Thanks to the power of their writing, the “America” of Emerson’s essays and Thoreau’s Walden became Concord writ large.


March 9, 2023
7:30 pm
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University of Mary Washington


Dodd Auditorium
1301 College Avenue
Fredericksburg, VA 22401 Select a Country:
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