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Additional resources for Our Common Dwelling: Henry Thoreau, Transcendentalism, and the Class Politics of Nature

Sample text

He] would not be committed to experiments that did not assume his first principle—the supreme dignity of the individual man. ” Frothingham is performing here the familiar trick of retrospectively redefining the criteria for membership in a group so as to exclude one’s opponent in a sectarian debate. The fact is that systems of French socialism, among other radical collectivist ways of thinking, were deeply influential within the Transcendentalist movement. B. Lewis and most of the prominent Americanists of his generation had a way of briefly acknowledging the manifold radicalism of Transcendentalism before moving on to analyses that smoothly incorporated it into a spruced-up version of the liberal tradition—what Vernon Louis Parrington called the main currents of American thought.

This was the greatest hardship in the lives of these children. An atmosphere of benevolent paternalism was maintained in the mill villages in order to ease public anxieties about children and single class struggle in new england / 27 women working and living away from home. 3 Although the women of the textile mills have come to stand for the experience of the working class as a whole in many histories of the period, their experience was not typical. Even in Lowell, factory operatives made up only about one-third of the work force.

Emerson is the major Transcendentalist. Transcendentalism is a philosophy of individualism. Individualism is the ground of American thought. American thought begins with Emerson. 1 36 / our common dwelling An early historian of the movement, Octavius Brooks Frothingham, was among the first to give scholarly credentials to this circle of reasoning. Speaking of Emerson without naming him, Frothingham argued in 1876 that if the Transcendentalist “was a reformer of society, it was as a vitalizer, not as a machinist.

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