C 08 英语（1）班
transcendentalism and the pioneer of modern environment. In his representative work Walden, Thoreau records his profound reflections on nature during his two-year communion with nature at Walden. Walden emphasizes the importance of self-reliance, solitude, contemplation, and closeness to nature in
transcending the crass existence that is supposedly the lot of the most humans. Among the numerous essays dwelling on Walden , most criticisms and interpretations focus on analyzing the transcendental naturalism in Walden . Though there are a lot of scholars and professors having analyzed transcendental naturalism from various perspectives and given a multitude of interpretations on this topic. However, no one can exhaust such a great work，there still leaves much space for a further study on it. By means of great efforts in searching, collecting and contemplating numerous scholars’ and professors’ literature, I have learned much and gained a lot.
1. The Introduction to the Transcendentalism The Review of the Transcendentalism by Yangsong demonstrates the origin and the development of the transcendentalism. It says that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay Nature is usually considered the watershed moment at which transcendentalism becomes a major cultural movement. It advocates that “The universe is composed of freedom and spirit and spirit is everywhere”. “Believing in you” is the motto of the transcendentalism. The transcendentalism puts emphasis on the spirit, holding that the spirit is the most important thing in the world. The spirit is the source of everything and the origin of the world. It is the main element of the world, existing in the universe and human beings. Meanwhile, it focuses on the importance of the individualism, person being the most important factor of the society. The regeneration of the society is realized only by personal realization. The self improvement and the self taught should become the
focus of attention of the world. The ideal person should be independent. Emerson and Thoreau both call on person to reach the spiritual perfect by means of solo power. Finally, the transcendentalism provides a new viewpoint for the understanding of the nature by people, nature being the symbol of the spirit and the God. For them, nature is not only the pure substance, but also the symbol of omniscient God, the outer coat of the spirit. Therefore, nature exerts great influences on the human beings. “Return to nature, embrace nature, and regain the perfect spirit world.” The nature of all things is symbolic and the material world is the symbol of the spirit world. The transcendentalism holds an important position in the history of the literature in the United States. Without the influence of the transcendentalism, America may not create a prolific literature era. The Analysis of the American Transcendentalism by Yu Louqin states that transcendentalism is a particular product of social development. Having developed for more than one hundred years, it has already penetrated into every corner of the American culture and become an integral part of Literature. Transcendentalists slam the door with the rational empiricism as they think that consciousness is the real state of the mind. Transcendentalists also stress the importance of individual ideological independence and value, chasing for the lofty spiritual life, highlighting the status and role of the emotion of people in the life, advocating humanistic spirit, promoting the individual liberty to an unprecedented height. American transcendentalism breaks off the bound on the Americans by long European theology and doctrine, giving a boost to the independence of the American culture. Therefore, the transcendentalism is labeled with “freedom” when it comes into being. The advertising of the individual independence spirit, especially the spirit of the audacity criticism produces profound effects on the American society and culture. The transcendentalism endows the individualism with the new connotations, instilling the negative concept with the positive factors. It gets rid of the selfish individualism and becomes a new concept advocating personality and pursuit of freedom and equality. The transcendentalism individualism caters to the needs of the American people, so it is
highly respected by the people. A History of American Literature by Wang Zhuo and Li Quanwen reveals that the term “Transcendentalism” is derived from the Latin verb “transcendere”, meaning to rise above, or to pass beyond the limits. The specific beliefs or theories of this movement do not seem to have been concretely stated. As the leader of this movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson interpreted Transcendentalism as “whatever belongs to the class of intuitive thought,” and as “idealism as it appears in 1842.” It stresses the power of intuition, believing that people could learn things both from the outside world by means of the fives senses and from the inner world by intuition. It takes nature as symbolic of spirit of God. All things in nature are symbols of the spiritual, of Gods’ presence. It emphasizes the significance of the individual and believes that the individual is the most important element in society and that the ideal kind of the individual is self-reliant and unselfish. As Emerson envisioned, religion is an emotional communication between an individual soul and the universal “Oversoul”. Transcendentalists wanted to be free from various influences that kept dominating the American culture and advocated a new era. American Transcendentalism inaugurated the American Renaissance, giving it both a necessary impulse as well as its foundations. From what have been illustrated above, I have a good understanding of the origin and the development of Transcendentalism, including its effect on the American literature and the whole society at that time, which provides the background and the setting of Thoreau’s works. At the same time, we can conclude that the rise and the prosperity of Transcendentalism is an important part of the history of the American literature, which drives the trend of the American literature to march on continuously and vigorously.
2. Thoreau’s Transcendentalism From Transcendental Naturalism to Ecological Philosophy by Zhangjing shows that Transcendentalism emphasizes the power of consciousness that one can perceive the outer world with perception and sensuousness. Thoreau’s
transcendentalism lays the humanism as the ideological foundation, in support of the
independent consciousness and the individual character, against the authority, especially against the prevailing rule of Calvin and Unitarianism in all fields of society. Thoreau’s transcendental naturalism is the rebellion against the view of Newton Universe in the 18th century . Thoreau holds that nature is the person’s stage, is the object perceived and understood by person. The integration of the revelation of natural and the inspiration of human creates the natural meaning. Thoreau also believes that nature is the existence of the spirit, is the symbol of the transcendental universe spirit. All the transcendental tenet of Thoreau can be summed up in one sentence: nature is the symbol of the universal mind. Only in nature can we get the highest spiritual experience and realize the communication of inner mind and sensory world. So, in order to achieve the highest state, people should return to nature, immerse inside, and improve themselves and perfect the spirit. The thought of Thoreau’s return to nature also reveals a kind of emotion to protect nature. In Thoreau’s eyes, nature, besides material, is still glowing with a spiritual thing. Thoreau even regards this spirit as the endless brilliant miracle. People have a responsibility to keep its transmission and to protect and maintain its true condition. Thoreau always sticks to the faith that man can conquer nature is the past, and the harmony between man and nature is the treasure and the dream of the continuity of the universe. Therefore, people will return to nature and be in harmony with nature. At the same time, human can’t destroy the original state of nature. A New Survey of American Literature by Liu Haiping and Wang Shouren expounds that nature has a unique and important meaning in Thoreau’s transcendentalism. Different from Emerson, Thoreau does not probe into the relationship between human and nature, mind and nature from the perspective of the philosophy. For him, nature is a real existence and the synthesized of the details of the universe. Nature is not just human partner, and it also sets up the role models, soothing the feeling, enlightening the mind. Thoreau has deep love for nature and pays close attention to nature. Its basic foundation is to reach the sublimation of spirit and mind in the nature. From these parts, I can deeply feel that Thoreau has a special
emotion towards the nature. He holds that the nature is the source of everything and our human beings should be in harmony with the nature. He sings high praise of the nature so that his works are full of the traces of the nature. Walden is a good exemplification and it is a wonderful way of demonstrating Thoreau’s transcendental naturalism.
3. Thoreau’s Transcendental Naturalism in Walden The Interpretation of the Ecological Thought in Walden by Zhangwei says that the core idea of the ecological overall theory puts the overall interests of the ecological system as the highest value, not the human interests as the highest value. Whether being advantageous of sustaining and protecting the integrity, harmony, stability, balance and continuity of the ecological system or not as a measure of basic criterion of all things as a ultimate value standard to judge the life style, scientific promotion, economic increase and social improvement of human beings. Ecological overall theory provides important philosophical thoughts for the harmony of the human beings and the nature. This thought has a full embodiment in Thoreau’s Walden. Thoreau lived in a period of rapid development of capitalist economy in the United States. Then people’s desire was inflated and they were greedy seriously to some extent, in pursuit of material enjoyment desperately. While, Thoreau still kept calm and stick to the plainness. The idea of the simple life is one of the core ideas in Walden. Thoreau repeated in the book calling for “Simple, simple, simple……”. The more human pursue the material life, the less human pursue spiritual life and the more empty and silent they feel. Thoreau moved to forest alone in order to get far from the blatant physical world. He could be integrated in nature to purify his inner mind and lift his spiritual stature. From this part, I can see the affluence of the material and the void of the spirit among human beings with the rapid development of our society and the tense relationship between human being and nature. Therefore, it is urgent for us human beings to introspect ourselves and realize our mistake and correct it promptly. The Lonely Walker in the Cultured World ----Thoreau by Zhangqingfang states that in Thoreau’s eyes, what he pursues is a “self”, to be exact, is the capitalized “self”,
which has a special meaning to his life. For Thoreau, the capitalized “self” stands for the universal self that is in union with nature rather than a small-letter “self” which is fallen in the money-oriented society, placing “self” in the center and setting “self” against nature. The ideal “self” is not something given once and for all, but something that needs to be continually taught and inspired by nature, then can form in the union of the individual “self” with the universal “self” that permeates nature. Thoreau favors an outwardly simple but inwardly complex life. His Walden experience is the way for people to be free from the control of desires for materials and tells that what kind of life can be simple as well as good. Thoreau’s self-realization is the union of physical realization and spiritual realization. This part gives me a hint that we human beings should improve and promote ourselves constantly. And nature gives us a wonderful aspiration for self-enhancement. Observe the Relationship between People and Nature from Thoreau by Lijing shows that it is increasingly evident that the life that Thoreau favors is the philosopher’s, a life of profound thought and wisdom, and a life that harmonizes with nature and brings the least damage to the environment. To enrich and diversify our experience, Thoreau repeatedly advocates trying to do new activities and pursuing diverse adventures. He often shows us how to get more out of our ordinary experiences, i.e. by carefully attending to them, thoroughly reflecting on them, patiently improving them. He believes that only by “simplicity, simplicity, and simplicity” can people obtain the true essence of life. Thoreau energetically advocates a simplified way of life. The purpose is to appeal to the public to break away from the conventions and hold fast to simplicity without adornment. As one of the creatures in nature, human being lives a life of diversity. Everyone tastes the bitterness and happiness in his story. No one could criticize which kind of life is good or bad. Everyone has the right to decide his life style. This mode of life has been perfectly justified, but is seriously questioned by Thoreau. He criticizes people’s blind imitation in search of material enjoyment. He argues that the outside appearance and changeable clothes of humans are just false skin. In pursuing so many improper and unnecessary material needs, humans are at the risk of losing their inborn
nature. They are turning themselves in machines and becoming the slaves of the lands, housing and clothes that they are thought to own. This part helps me to come to know that the relationship between nature and humans should be harmonious and balanced. We should not break the rule of nature. Therefore, we can get well with nature.
4. The Origin of Thoreau’s Transcendental Naturalism Poetic Dwelling: an Eco-critical Study of Henry David Thoreau by Chen Maolin demonstrates that the origin of Thoreau’s transcendental naturalism lies in the four aspects: firstly, the natural environment of Thoreau’s hometown Concord, and his parents’ nature education on him have fostered Thoreau’s permanent and intoxicant love for the nature world. Secondly, the radical tradition and rebelling consciousness of Concord, together with the American values of cult of freedom, equality, democracy and individuality, have produced important effects on Thoreau. Thirdly, American transcendentalism, which attaches great importance to spirit, advocates going back to nature, and seeking knowledge, truth, wisdom, and spiritual perfection by means of returning to nature, has exerted significance influence upon Thoreau’s thinking on nature and spirit. Fourthly, American Indian culture, which regards the earth as the Mother Creator of all entities in the world and maintains that everything on earth is alive and scared and has intrinsic value and opposes the Cartesian Dualism that cuts human from natural world, is another source of Thoreau’s transcendental naturalism. A New Survey of American Literature by Liu Haiping and Wang Shouren illustrates that Thoreau’s transcendental naturalism is influenced largely by the oriental culture. Thoreau has been intoxicated with oriental culture all his life. The natural outlook regarding man as an integral part of nature, the emphasis on the wholeness of human spiritual self-culture, and harmony between nature and man advocated by Chinese culture, the “poor-yet-cheerful attitudes towards life, and the social outlook featured by the realization of order through the individual’s introspection and spiritual attainment held by the Confucianism, have influenced Thoreau’s thinking on natural, social, and spiritual ecology. From what have been
expressed above, I am aware that the factors stated, independent as well as interrelated, have altogether contributed to the formation of Thoreau’s unique, multifaceted, complex, and rich ideas on transcendental naturalism. It helps us have a better understanding of the origin of Thoreau’s thought.
Having read the above literature concerning the analyses of Thoreau’s transcendental naturalism, we can find that more and more scholars and professors both at home and abroad have already pay attention to this field. They probe into the work from different perspectives, which gives me correct guidance and abound materials. In my paper, I tend to analyze the Thoreau’s transcendental naturalism on the following aspects: be kind to and cherish all the life; in pursuit of simple material and rich spirit; return to nature to unify the humans and nature; self-understand, self-analyses, self-develop. With the help of the achievements of the critical study done by the former scholars, I hope that I can make some contribution to this field by reading extensively and analyzing the literature.
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