Ideas are the things that make humans different from the rest of the animal kingdom. We dream, invent, philosophize, design, write and sing. We express ourselves, and take in the ideas of those around us.
People of the past were no different, and in the first half of the 1800s, new ideas blossomed in philosophy, religion, literature, art and experiments with social engineering. But, were these expressions due to new ideas, or perhaps authors wrote books that changed people’s ideas.
This is a question that applies just as well to the Age of Jackson as it does to modern times. Do our ideas drive our arts and beliefs, or do our beliefs give rise to new expressions?
What do you think? Do our beliefs change our world, or reflect our world?
Styles of thinking change over time, and these changes are reflected in a society’s art, architecture and literature. During the founding of the United States in the late 1700s, Europe and America were in a phase we now call the Neoclassical Era. Neoclassical thinkers emphasized reason, order, logic and looked to the Greeks and Romans for inspiration. The Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke were neoclassical in their thinking and sought to examine government and the world rationally. Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm to examine the true nature of lighting. Empirical science was being born. The Constitution that was crafted under the careful hand of James Madison is a testament to the importance of logic and order of the time. The White House, Capitol and so many other government buildings in America look like Greek temples because Plato, Aristotle and Socrates were an inspiration for the Founding Fathers.
In the 1800s, neoclassicism was replaced by something entirely different: romanticism. Begun in Europe, the Romantic Movement emphasized individualism, the discovery of the self, an emphasis on intuitive rather than empirical reasoning, and the assumption that the natural world was inherently good while human society was filled with corruption. The romantics looked to emotion before logic and saw human experiences reflected in nature. While the neoclassical generation saw the world in black and white, the romantics saw every shade and every color.
Romanticism became popular in American politics, philosophy, and art. The movement appealed to the revolutionary spirit of America as well as to those longing to break free of the strict religious traditions of earlier times. The Romantics rejected rationalism and religious intellect. They appealed especially to opponents of Calvinism who taught that the destiny of each individual is preordained by God.
The Romantic movement in America was widely popular and manifested itself in art, philosophy and especially in literature. Novels, short stories, and poems replaced the sermons and manifestos of earlier days. Romantic literature was personal and intense. It portrayed more emotion than was seen in neoclassical literature.
America’s preoccupation with freedom became a great source of motivation for Romantic writers, as many were delighted in free expression and emotion without fear of ridicule and controversy. They also put more effort into the psychological development of their characters, and the main characters typically displayed extremes of sensitivity and excitement. The works of the Romantic Era also differed from preceding works in that they spoke to a wider audience, partly reflecting the greater distribution of books as costs came down and literacy rose during the period. The Romantic period also saw an increase in female authors and readers.
American Romantic literature made an early appearance with Washington Irving’s 1810 and 1820 stories Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, followed from 1823 onwards by the Leatherstocking Tales of James Fenimore Cooper. In his popular novel Last of the Mohicans, Cooper expressed romantic ideals about the relationship between men and nature. These works had an emphasis on heroic simplicity and fervent landscape descriptions of an already-exotic mythicized frontier peopled by “noble savages.” Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of the macabre and his balladic poetry were more influential in France than at home, but the romantic American novel developed fully with the atmosphere and melodrama of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter.
Primary Source: Manuscript
The original manuscript of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Wild Nights.”
The greatest of all the romantic writers, however were Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville. The poetry of Emily Dickinson, nearly unread in her own time, often incorporates descriptions of natural phenomena as a metaphor for human experience, as in this poem:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
In his novel Moby-dick, Herman Melville uses the quest to kill a whale as a stand in for a variety of human struggles and emotions.
Secondary Source: Illustration
An illustration that appeared in one edition of Moby-dick showing the white whale attacking a boat of whalers.
THE HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL
Literature was not the only art form in which romantic ideas found an outlet. A group of painters known as the Hudson River School, so named because many of the early artists of the style worked in and painted scenes of the Hudson River Valley, brought human experiences to life through landscape painting.
The founder of this new movement was Thomas Cole. Cole had no formal training as an artist. He could not draw a likeness, or any real figure for that matter. But he understood something his peers did not. While artists had been painting Americans for over a century, no one had painted America before — the mountains, streams, vistas, valleys, or the limitless frontier. Nature itself became the subject of his work as America’s national myth and new identity developed. Cole became the spiritual father of the wilderness landscape artists. His early subjects were the mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and primal mists of upper New York state.
Primary Source: Painting
“View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow” is a classic example of the Hudson River style. Painted in 1836 by Thomas Cole, is juxtaposes dark and light, man-affected order and natural wilderness and places humans as players in the natural world.
Other landscape painters Frederick Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt put on canvas not just the areas around upper New York State but also the diversity of beauty found in the far West, the Sierra Mountains, the Rockies, Latin America, and Mexico. They tried to express a love of nature and a feeling for man’s place in it.
The casual observer might look at the work of Cole, Church or Bierstadt and see a farmer in a mountain valley with rain clouds in the distance, but to a romantic, the painting is an allegory for man’s quest to overcome great difficulties and find peace in the world.
The artists of the Hudson River School benefited from a change in the way Americans were consuming art. High culture was becoming the province of all people not just the wealthy elite. For the first time, art museums opened and fine works were accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy few who could afford to commission paintings of themselves or their relatives.
THE SECOND GREAT AWAKENING
Standing on a hilltop in upstate New York, with the breeze blowing lightly through his hair, the Reverend Charles Grandison Finney surveyed his audience. He was about to say something startling. In his grand baritone, he began by exhorting them to listen carefully as he was about to change their lives. “Salvation is the beginning of a life of good works here on earth! Man can, therefore, achieve his own salvation. God is not angry! God is merciful and loving. Therefore, go forth, and do as well as believe!”
His flock was duly astounded. This was a unique and welcome message coming from the mouths of Reverend Finney and other American evangelists who began spreading the news of the Second Great Awakening from New England to the West.
Central to the teachings of the leaders of the Second Great Awakening was the idea that each person, both men and women, held within themselves a spark of divinity, and that everyone could individually make a connection with God. Not formal church was required, only a willingness to believe. This idea is now known as Pentecostalism.
This was a message of hope and opportunity. Religion was not only revived it was being transformed. Gone were the warnings that man was depraved, that he was predestined to salvation or damnation, that God was angry and full of vengeance. The amazing assurance that life on earth had its own rewards and was not just a way station on the road to heaven or hell touched people’s hearts, and they rushed to hear it.
Rather than rushing to church, Americans rushed to camp meetings. These often provided the first encounter for some settlers with organized religion, and they were important as social venues. The camp meeting was a religious service that lasted several days. Like a travelling show, preachers came to town, set up a podium and the people of the area came for the event. Settlers in thinly populated areas gathered at the camp meeting for fellowship as well as worship. The sheer exhilaration of participating in a religious revival with crowds of hundreds and perhaps thousands of people inspired dancing, shouting, and singing that characterized the events. The revivals followed an arc of great emotional power, with an emphasis of the individual’s sins and need to turn to Christ, restored by a sense of personal salvation. Upon their return home, most converts joined or created small local churches, which grew rapidly. The Second Great Awakening marked a religious transition in society in America. The area around central New York and along the Erie Canal was visited by so many travelling preachers and was such fertile ground for Pentecostal fervor and conversion that it was referred to as the Burned Over District.
Primary Source: Illustration
An artist’s rendition of a camp meeting during the Second Great Awakening.
A key teaching of many of the Second Great Awakening ministers was postmillennialism, the idea that Jesus Christ established his kingdom on earth through his preaching in the First Century and that he would return, after a period in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity prevailed in the affairs of men and of nations. After such a period, Jesus Christ would return visibly, bodily, and gloriously to end history with the final judgment after which the eternal order would follow. In other words, if humans could create pure Eden, or heaven-like conditions on Earth, Jesus would soon follow to save the righteous. During the Second Great Awakening, some Americans expected this moment was just a few years away and it became an important motivator for social reformers. They wanted to clean up society in the same way a host cleans a house before the guests arrive. William Miller founded the Seventh-day Adventist Church based on the belief that he could pinpoint the exact day when the Messiah would return to earth.
The Seventh-day Adventists were not the only new religious group formed during the Second Great Awakening. After having a series of religious visions, Joseph Smith, a young man from Palmyra, New York published the Book of Mormon and established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1830. The church was plagued with persecution from the very beginning because of its evangelizing, its separation from surrounding communities, and its non-traditional ideas, including polygamy. Its members, commonly referred to as Mormons, fled New York to avoid harassment. After Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed by an angry mob in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844, the church members headed west under the leadership of Brigham Young. After a long, difficult trek along what is known now as the Mormon Trail, 140,000 Mormons settled in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Primary Source: Photograph
A group of Mormons in Colorado during their migration to Utah.
As members of both new and established protestant churches like Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalists moved to the West, they carried with them their message of revival and redemption. Since danger and uncertainty abounded on the frontier, evangelists discovered that the promise of salvation could be delivered with even more zeal. James Macready made his name preaching hellfire and brimstone, a style that emphasized the urgency of repentance before the arrival of the judgment day. Peter Cartwright traveled across the frontier and brought religious services to countless remote Americans as one of the premier Methodist circuit riders. Sin and repentance dominated the camp meeting, and the sermons and songs used imagery rural Americans could understand. God was coming, the preachers told them and would judge the righteous and the sinners like a farmer judges the crops at the end of the summer. Those who repented and accepted Christ would be saved, and those who chose a life of sin would be burned like weeds of the fields.
The movement was perfectly in tune with sentiments of the time. Romantic ideas about individualism and man’s connection with nature dovetailed into the circuit riders’ messages. Methodists and Baptists made the greatest gains in numbers of members. With a less formal clergy and the notion that anyone could be saved, these groups meshed nicely with America’s emerging middle class.
Revivalist ministers did not confine themselves to American audiences. It was during the Second Great Awakening that missionary work first became popular. Catholic missionaries from France and Spain had long ago tried to convert Native Americans, but in the early 1800s, a new breed of zealous protestant missionaries headed overseas to spread their message. It was at this time that Christian missionaries first arrived in Hawaii.
With the Second Great Awakening’s emphasis on the individual, women were finally given a chance to participate more equally in religious practice. Women helped plan, promote and run the camp meetings, and middle class women especially promoted the distribution of bibles. They were critical to the success of the new American Bible Society.
At the same time the Second Awakening was freeing men and women in the North and West, churches in the South began adopting a more authoritarian, paternalistic tone and did not encourage thinking about or questioning of social institutions, since such probing might have an undesired effect. The idea that all men have a spark of divinity and are therefore to be treated equally and benevolently did not mesh well with the existence of slavery. But everywhere else in America, the church and the clergy became, at least in spirit, a champion for the common man, his individual dignity and salvation, and the betterment of his condition.
Transcendentalism is a very formal word that describes a very simple idea. People, men and women equally, have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that transcends, or goes beyond what they can see, hear, taste, touch or feel. This knowledge comes through intuition and imagination not through logic or the senses. People can trust themselves to be their own authority on what is right. By rising above the routines and distractions of everyday life, a transcendentalist can understand and accept these ideas not as religious beliefs but as a way of understanding the true nature of the world.
The individuals most closely associated with this new way of thinking were connected loosely through a group known as The Transcendental Club, which met in the Boston home of George Ripley. Their chief publication was a periodical called The Dial, edited by Margaret Fuller, a political radical and feminist whose book Women of the Nineteenth Century was among the most famous of its time. The club had many extraordinary thinkers, but accorded the leadership position to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Emerson was a Harvard-educated essayist and lecturer and is often recognized as the first truly American thinker. In his most famous essay, The American Scholar, he urged Americans to stop looking to Europe for inspiration and imitation and be themselves. He believed that people were naturally good and that everyone’s potential was limitless. He inspired his colleagues to look into themselves, into nature, into art, and through work for answers to life’s most perplexing questions. His intellectual contributions to the philosophy of transcendentalism inspired a uniquely American idealism and spirit of reform.
The Transcendental Club was associated with colorful members between 1836 and 1860. Among these were literary figures Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Walt Whitman. But the most interesting character by far was Henry David Thoreau, who tried to put transcendentalism into practice. A great admirer of Emerson, Thoreau nevertheless was his own man, described variously as strange, gentle, fanatic, selfish, a dreamer and a stubborn individualist. For two years, Thoreau carried out the most famous experiment in self-reliance when he went to Walden Pond, built a hut, and tried to live self-sufficiently without the trappings or interference of society. Later, when he wrote about the simplicity and unity of all things in nature, his faith in humanity, and his sturdy individualism, Thoreau reminded everyone that life is wasted pursuing wealth and following social customs. Nature can show that “all good things are wild and free” were central themes of his book Walden. His work captures exquisitely the transcendental view of the world:
“Still we live meanly, like ants… Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify.”
Secondary Source: Photograph
Walden Pond as it appeared in 2010. The land around the pond has been protected as a park in order to preserve the atmosphere Thoreau experienced during his stay. Today, the entire area is encompassed by Metropolitan Boston.
As a group, the transcendentalists led the celebration of the American experiment as one of individualism and self-reliance. They took progressive stands on women’s rights, abolition, reform, and education. They criticized government, organized religion, laws, social institutions, and creeping industrialization. They created an American state of mind in which imagination was better than reason, creativity was better than theory, and action was better than contemplation. Moreover, they had faith that all would be well because humans could transcend limits and accomplish astonishing things.
At a time when inventors were churning out new and ever more amazing ideas, traveling ministers were encouraging individual divinity, and artists were highlighting the natural world, transcendentalism had a ready audience.
EXPERIMENTS WITH UTOPIA
As 19th Century America grew larger, richer, and more diverse, it was also trying to achieve a culture that was distinct and not a replica of Europe. The thirst for individual improvement had local communities creating debating clubs, library societies, and literary associations for the purpose of sharing interesting and provocative ideas. Maybe, people speculated, if any society were completely reorganized, it could be regenerated and, ultimately, perfected. Utopia, originally a Greek word for an imaginary place where everyone and everything is perfect, became a goal in America as some daring leaders and confident followers created model communities within the greater society.
Most of the original utopias were formed by religious groups. One of the earliest was devised by George Rapp, a German zealot, who took 600 followers to western Pennsylvania in 1804. Using shared funds to purchase land, the Rappites created a commune where they isolated themselves from others while waiting for the Revelation. Because of their extreme views on sex and marriage, and their strict, literal interpretation of the Bible, they failed to spread goodwill or gain converts.
More hospitable to their neighbors and able to attract about 6,000 members by the 1830s, twenty successful Shaker communities flourished. They followed the principles of simplicity, celibacy, common property, equal labor and reward espoused by their founder Mother Ann Lee.
Gradually, utopian communities came to reflect social perfectibility rather than religious purity. Robert Owen, for example, believed in economic and political equality. Those principles, plus the absence of a particular religious creed, were the 1825 founding principles of his New Harmony, Indiana, cooperative that lasted for only two years before economic failure.
John Humphrey Noyes designed the Oneida Community in upstate New York. Oneidans refusing to allow members to form lasting romantic relationships, never married, practiced communal child rearing, group discipline, and attempted to improve the genetic composition of their offspring. Their community flourished and they supported themselves by manufacturing silverware. They were able to maintain their unique lifestyle for more than 30 years before eventually abandoning Noyes’ more unconventional teachings and reintegrating with the surrounding community. Their legacy remains, however, as their company continues to be one of the largest producers of cutlery and flatware in the world.
Self-reliance, optimism, individualism and a disregard for external authority and tradition characterized one of the most famous of all the American communal experiments. Brook Farm, near Roxbury, Massachusetts, was founded to promote human culture and brotherly cooperation. It was supposed to bestow the highest benefits of intellectual, physical, and moral education to all its members. Through hard work and simplicity, those who joined the fellowship of George Ripley’s farm were supposed to understand and live in social harmony, free of government, free to perfect themselves. However, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote about his stay here in The Blithedale Romance, left this utopia disillusioned.
Finally, it was romantic thinker and strict vegetarian Bronson Alcott, father of author Louisa May Alcott, who devoted himself to tilling the soil at Fruitlands from June 1844 to January 1845 in the hope that love, education, and mutual labor would bring him and his small following peace. He was later ridiculed as “a man bent on saving the world by a return to acorns.”
The 1840s marked the height of the utopian trials. The belief that man was naturally good and that human institutions were perfectible had raised tremendous expectations about the possibilities of reform and renewal. These experiments ultimately disintegrated under the strain of human fallibility, but, for a while, their idealistic members tried to create places where a brotherhood of followers shared equally in the goods of their labor and lived in peace. It seemed that within the great American experiment, searching for utopia required only the commitment of people who found it easy to believe that nothing was impossible.
The early 1800s must have been an exciting time. New works of art were being created and viewed by middle class Americans for the first time. New ideas about the relationship between humans, nature and emotion were common. Religious revivals were spreading and new religious beliefs were become widely accepted. Authors wrote strikingly different books than had been common just a few decades before, and if you were particularly daring, you might leave home to join one of the experimental utopian communities springing up across the Northeast and Midwest.
But what made all of this happen? Were there new ways of thinking that were being expressing in art, philosophy, social engineering and religion? Or were people changing their minds based on the things they saw and read?
What do you think? Do our beliefs change, or reflect our world?
BIG IDEA: Romanticism and the Second Great Awakening brought new ideas from Europe to America which were manifested in art, literature, and religious practices. Americans developed their own new philosophy in Transcendentalism.
Romanticism was a new way of thinking about art, music and literature. It emphasized emotion rather than rational thinking. Begun in Europe, Americans embraced Romanticism. Authors wrote stories such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, novels like Moby Dick, and poems such as The Raven that used the natural world to reveal human experience and emotion. Artists of the Hudson River School painted beautiful pictures of landscapes that followed this same theme.
During the first half of the 1800s a religious revival swept through England and America. Travelling preachers promised listeners that God would soon be returning and the best way to bring about the second coming was to purify themselves and the world. In essence, people could bring God back by making Earth more God-like. They taught that every human had a spark of divinity and should make a personal connection with God.
This movement led to the development of many new religious groups, including the Mormons who eventually moved to Utah to escape persecution. The movement also brought more equality for women in religion since it emphasized individuals over church structure and leadership.
A unique American philosophy developed in the early 1800s called Transcendentalism. Founded by scholars in New England, this movement promoted the idea that people were inherently good and that by rejecting traditional ways of living and thinking people could rise above the distractions of modern life and find happiness and understanding. Thoreau lived in the woods by Walden Pond for a year to test this hypothesis.
Some social reformers believed they could create a perfect society from scratch. Multiple such experiments briefly flourished. Shakers believed in equality between the sexes and celibacy. The Oneida Community rejected marriage. Transcendentalists built Brook Farm. All the utopian communities failed eventually. It turned out that humans are not as perfect as dreamers hoped.
PEOPLE & GROUPS
Washington Irving: Romantic author of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
James Fenimore Cooper: Romantic author of the Letherstocking Tales, including the Last of the Mohicans.
Edgar Allan Poe: American romantic author and poet. His dark stories and poetry are examples of the romanticism’s use of nature as a reflection of human experience.
Nathaniel Hawthorne: Romantic author of The Scarlet Letter.
Emily Dickinson: Romantic poet. Mostly reclusive, she is widely regarded as one of the premiere authors of the first half of the 1800s.
Herman Melville: Romantic author of the classic Moby-dick.
Hudson River School: A group of artists of the Romantic Era who painted landscapes.
Thomas Cole: Founder of the Hudson River School. He pioneered the use of landscape painting in the Romantic Era.
Frederick Edwin Church: Along with Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Cole, one of the great artists of the Hudson River School.
Albert Bierstadt: Along with Frederick Edwin Church and Thomas Cole, one of the great artists of the Hudson River School.
Charles Grandison Finney: Minister who initiated the Second Great Awakening.
Seventh-day Adventist Church: A religious group established during the Second Great Awakening based on the idea that they could pinpoint the exact day that Jesus would return to earthy.
Joseph Smith: Founder of the Mormon Church.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: Full name for the Mormon Church.
Brigham Young: Leader of the Mormons after the murder of Joseph Smith. He led them along their trek to Utah.
American Bible Society: Organization founded during the Second Great Awakening to publish Bibles. Women were especially active in this group.
The Transcendental Club: Group of transcendentalists. Their publication The Dial, was edited by Margaret Fuller.
Margaret Fuller: Feminist author of Women of the Nineteenth Century and editor of The Transcendentalists Club’s periodical The Dial.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Founder of the Transcendentalism and president of The Transcendentalist Club. His book Nature, defined the movement.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: American poet and transcendentalist. Among his poems many famous poems is Paul Revere’s Ride.
Walt Whitman: American poet and transcendentalist. His most celebrated work is the collection of poetry Leaves of Grass.
Henry David Thoreau: Most famous of all the transcendentalists, he lived for a year alone at Walden Pond.
Shakers: A Christian group the flourished in the early 1800s. They promoted equality of the sexes and celibacy. Their founded in the United States was Mother Ann Lee.
Mother Ann Lee: Founder of the American Shaker movement.
Romanticism: Movement in the early 1800s in art, literature, music and philosophy that emphasized emotion, individualism, discovery of the self and connections to the natural world.
Spark of Divinity: The idea from the Second Great Awakening that everyone could make an individual connection to god.
Pentecostalism: A movement within Protestant Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is an outgrowth of the Second Great Awakening.
Postmillennialism: The idea that Jesus Christ established his kingdom on earth through his preaching in the First Century and that he would return, after a period in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity prevailed in the affairs of men and of nations.
Hellfire and Brimstone: A style of preaching popularized during the Second Great Awakening that emphasized the urgency of repenting sins and joining the Church before the imminent return of Jesus and the arrival of the judgement day.
Transcendentalism: A philosophical movement that originated in the first half of the 1800s among intellectuals in New England. It taught that humans and nature were inherently good and that by rejecting traditional ways of living and thinking people could rise above the distractions of modern life and find happiness and understanding.
Utopia: A perfect place. In the early 1800s, various groups of social reformers tried to create new communities to create such a place.
BOOKS & ESSAYS
Moby-dick: Novel by Herman Melville. It is a classic of the Romantic Era in which human flaws such as hate, revenge, arrogance and personified in the hunt for a whale.
Book of Mormon: Book written by Joseph Smith. Mormons consider it to be a holy text alongside the Bible.
The American Scholar: Essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson in which he urged Americans to stop looking to Europe for examples to imitate.
Walden: Book by Henry David Thoreau recounting his experience living alone in the woods.
Burned Over District: Area in up-state New York that was home to particularly fervent religious excitement during the Second Great Awakening.
New Harmony: Utopian community in Indiana founded in 1825 by Robert Owen.
Oneida Community: Utopian community in New York founded by John Humphrey Noyes. They rejected traditional marriage practices and encouraged communal childrearing. They were economically successful manufacturing cutlery and flatware.
Brook Farm: Utopian community in Massachusetts founded by transcendentalists.
Fruitlands: Utopian community founded by Bronson Alcott.
Second Great Awakening: Religious movement in the first half of the 1800s that emphasizes individual connection to god, spark of divinity, Pentecostalism, postmillennialism and was driven by travelling ministers who preached at camp meetings. It was most strong in New York, but spread throughout the nation, except in the South.
Camp Meetings: Multi-day religious community events during the Second Great Awakening.
Mormon Trail: The movement of the Mormons from Illinois to Utah in 1844.
34 Replies to “Question 2: Do our beliefs change our world or reflect our world?”
Are there still utopian communities?
What did Thoreau do on a daily basis while he was at Walden Pond for a year?
Do Mormons still practice polygamy, and why is it so popular in Hawaii?
Wearnt the burnt over district people tired of the preachers coming to their area constantly?
I believe that the Oneida Community is really unique and is something that can be often relatable in a sense that we don’t have to be so used to the traditional ideals America has set, as I also want to be able to not define myself to those kinds of standards. I also think that their ideals are acceptable in my opinion and I like that specifically they want to be able to let their children grow all the way to adulthood, it can be something that some parents may want to think about with their children.
A Book called “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, gives an insight to the world of utopia where everything is perfect for the characters but in reality it’s a dystopian world.
I feel as though many religions, still to this day, try to reform society into their idea as “perfect.” I use to see this when I went to church and they talked living life by the rules that God made so he can see how much his followers will obey.
What if we didn’t have transcendental ideals or didn’t think of Utopias? How would that effect our world today?
How did people find out that their own kind was not perfect?
Do Mormons still believe in polygamy?
Were there any atheists? If so, were they rejected from normal societies?
How long did the style of the Hudson River paintings last? And what kind of style of art became more relevant after them, or did they just adapt the paintings to fit the themes at the time?
What role did transcendentalism play in the development of women’s rights?
Are there any Utopias that are still running today and if so, what are their beliefs?
With so many great thinkers during this time, what truly influenced what people saw as “utopia”? Everyone had their own views, so how did the groups working towards the perfect world, come together to decide what the perfect world really is?
(Gives more information about the history of the Mormon Trail)
What specifically got people to desire a perfect society? What kind of thinkers wanted that perfect society?
when in the utopian societies, what would happen to the ones who didn’t abide by the rules ?
How did women feel when being treated more equal because everyone had a spark of divinity?
Did many women want to be in utopian society? Did they hope that they would have more equal rights if everything was “perfect”?
What qualities does a perfect society has to have? The groups who tried to create utopias had different definition of perfect so they did different things in their communities. Having a utopia is hard. Which society in the world would be closest to a utopia?
Where do you think that painters from the Hudson River group got their inspiration from? Did they get them from looking at the nature around them and relating it to themselves? Or did they paint what their peers felt and reflected it onto a symbolic painting with nature?
Is there anywhere else that Romantics got their ideas from for their paintings and sermons? We know that emotions and nature are a few, but is there anything else? If there is, why?
I think romantics were first inspired to create such paintings from their emotions. They then proceeded to find more inspiration by looking around them and whatever they found, which included nature, that reflected the emotion inside of them, is what they then painted.
How did the people who opposed the idea of romanticism cope with the change?
What was the difference between the first and second great awakening? What role did the great awakening play in planting the seeds for the revolution?
I think the main difference is that the second great awakening emphasized individuality and creating individual connections with God.
After Henry David Thoreau spent two years putting transcendentalism into practice by trying to live on his own at Walden Pond, did anyone follow his footsteps and try the same thing? Were any Americans against the idea of transcendentalism? Did opposition to transcendentalism ever lead to violence?
Why did romanticism appeal to the revolutionary spirit of Americans?
I think that Romanticism appealed to the Revolutionary Spirit of Americans because romantics emphasized individualism and the Revolutionary Spirit of Americans can be seen as Americans wanting to be an independent country.
Since there were so many beliefs about our world, some beliefs must have contradicted each other. How did people deal with this conflict in ideas? Were people willing to accept others with different philosophies and maintain peace?
Does Thomas Cole’s new movement for the Hudson River School change many perspectives of how we view paintings from stories of America? Does his and his peers’ paintings change the meaning of early America, from what was written down?
Comparing the Neoclassical period and the Romanticism Era, which one would you say had a greater impact on establishing Ameria as a society?
I personally would say that the Romanticism Era left a greater impact on establishing American Society for a few reasons. One reason is that this Era marked a turning point in American history in where people began to look to emotion before logic, and this is when people began to realize a value in human experiences. One can also see the impacts of the Romanticism Era in novels, short stories, and poems. Romantic literature is a genre that displayed and invoked emotion more so than the sermons and manifiestos of the day. Writers such as Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville, their books are still a source of inspiration and students often read their books or excerpts from their books. This era was the start of new ideas, and the reason why we are able to go to art museums was greatly in part of the shifting of thinking during this era. Before this only the wealthy were able to access these fine pieces of art.