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American Romanticism / Transcendentalism:
Art and Literature Links

Joel Peckham

America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination and it
will not wait long for metres.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, from THE POET

The American Romantic movement and its offspring, American Transcendentalism participated in the reaction against a neoclassical ideal that stressed the value of rational, order-centered, approaches to art and spirituality as they were expressed in the writings of Locke and Bacon. Based in the artistic philosophies of German transcendentalists and Romantics such as Goethe, Kant, Schiller, and Hegel, and on the literary conventions of British authors such as Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron, major 19 century American authors and artists created a unique movement integrating these revolutionaly ideals (particularly the romantic emphasis on a harmonious, almost, primitive, connectedness to the natural world and the spiritual signifigance of its sublime manifestations) with the dawning frontier spirit, intense nationalism, and democratic idealization of the common man that characterized American social and political movements of the period.

Though early manifestations of the American Romantic movement were reflective and sometimes derivitive of their Europeen counterparts, major authors, artists, and composers such as John Greenleaf Whittier, William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Stephen Foster,and Edward Macdowell began to give to America a national artistic and literary culture. The movement came into its own with the emergeance of transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson as a major literary, political, and religious figure in New England. Emerson infused "corpse-cold" New England Unitarianism, with a somewhat pantheistic and thoroughly outward, expansive, spiritualism, originating in Kantian and Swedenborgian artistic and spiritual philosophy.

The full flowering of the movement is evident in the essays of Theoreau and the poetry of Walt Whitman. And though its nationalistic fervor dissipated with the end of the civil war, and its poetics were attacked by major modernists such as Ezra Pound, it remains the most enduring of American Literary Movements, its influence evident in the works of contemporary authors as diverse as Carolyn Forche, Louise Gluck, Galway Kinnell, Allen Ginsberg, James Dickey, and Yusef Kamunyaaka.

General Sources:

Site devoted to American Romanticism with an emphasis on History

Site devoted to Literary American Romanticism

Site Devoted to American Transcendalism with links to Artists and Authors

Site Devoted to American Transcendentalism focusing on Emerson

Another Site Devoted to American Transcendentalism with links to Individual Authors and Influences

Definition of Transcendentalism

Site devoted to Swedenborgian Philosophy (important influence of Emerson)

Site devoted to Immanuel Kant (Major German Transcendentalist)

Unitarianism--Transcendental Christianity (the religious roots of American Transcendentalism)

Individual Authors:

William Cullen Bryant (very short bio with a link to collected poems)
Nathaniel Hawthorn (bio with links to other sites)
Henry Wadwsworth Longfellow (bio with links to other sites)
John Greenleaf Whittier (links to poems)
Edgar Allen Poe (links to poems, stories, web-pages)
Oliver Wendell Holmes (links to poems and other web-pages)
Jones Very (bio)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (links)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (writings)
Henry David Thoreau (links to sites and writings)
Louisa May Alcott and Family (Bios with short selections from writings
Frederick Douglass (links to major works and other web-sites)
James Russell Lowell (links to poems and a web-site)
Margaret Fuller
Jones Very (bio)
Walt Whitman (shorter poems)
Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass)
Walt Whitman (links)
Mark Twain (links to works and web-sites)

History and Historians of 19th Century America

"The Role of Philosophy and Literature in Building up
the National Identity of the early 19th century United States,"
Keijo Virtanen

A Good Site for Links to Various 19th Century Historical Subjects
HISTORY AS ROMANTIC ART (Hypertext version of a book that explores the connection between Romantic philosophy and major Historians of the period)
An Abridged History of the United States, Chapter 3
An Abridged History of the United States, Chapter 4

19th Century American Music
Music of the Civil War
Stephen Collins Foster (bio with links to melodies and lyrics)
Edward Macdowell(bio with links to melodies and lyrics)
Charles Ives
Another Ives Site with Selected Melodies
Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Another Griffes Site with Selected Melodies

19th Century American Art and Artists:

Artists of the American West

The Hudson River School of Painting

Albert Bierstadt
Frederick Remington
Thomas Moran
George Inness
George Caleb Bingham
George Caitlin
John Singer Sargent
Thomas Cole
Winslow Homer
James Whistler
Mary Cassat


"The Cotton Pickers," Winslow Homer
The Cotton Pickers,Homer

"Fog Warning," Winslow Homer
Fog Warning,Homer

"Arrangement in Black--a Portrait of the Artist's Mother," James Whistler
Arrangement in Black--a Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Whistler

"Nocturne: Blue and Gold, Old Battersea Bridge ," James Whistler
Nocturne: Blue and Gold, Old Battersea Bridge, Whistler

"Woman in Black at the Theatre," Mary Cassatt
Woman in Black at the Theatre, Cassatt

"Mother and Child Against a Green Background," Mary Cassatt
Mother and Child Against a Green Background, Cassatt

"Tower Falls and Sulfer Rock," Thomas Moran
Tower Falls and Sulfer Rock, Moran

"Buffalo Chase in Winter," George Catlin
Buffalo Chase in Winter,

"Immigrants Crossing the Prairie," Albert Bierstadt
Immigrants Crossing the Prairie, Bierstadt

"The Savage State," Thomas Cole
The Savage State, Cole

"The Jolly Flatboatmen in Port," George Caleb Bingham
The Jolly Flatboatmen in Port, Bingham