Question about American intellectual and emotional values in the 1800s.what point were the transcendentalist trying to make by complainning about the need for a new kind of "American culture" The...

Question about American intellectual and emotional values in the 1800s.

what point were the transcendentalist trying to make by complainning about the need for a new kind of "American culture" The united states was founded on principles derived from the Engligtenment period and tradition. Give that romanticism was reaction against the Age of Reason, why did romantic capture minds of 19th century Americans?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that you raise some really interesting issues in the question.  I would offer that the American brand of Romanticism, Transcendentalism, was a bit different than its European counterpart in its approach to the Age of Reason.  Romantic thinkers like Wordsworth felt a hearty sense of resentment towards Enlightenment values.  I don't sense this level of disdain in the American thought.  Thinkers like Emerson were not suggesting that there was nothing of value in the American system of rights based government.  I think that they recognized that unlike Europe, America was young enough to be guided and molded in such a manner that their voices of Transcendentalist inquiry could be integrated into the social and political discourse.  There seems to be a greater level of pragmatism in the Transcendentalist vision as opposed to the European Romantic one, which seems to be content with its role as the outsider and the voice of dissent against the established system.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although America was founded on Enlightenment principles, a lot of people feel that those principles are really not very satisfying from an emotional point of view.  It is for this reason that Romanticism captured the minds of so many people.

During the 1840s or so, the US economy and society was becoming ever more "rationalized."  That means it was getting to be more ordered and regular and routine.  People were losing control of their lives.  Because of this, they turned to ideas of Romanticism and Transcendentalism that gave them the feeling that they were individuals.

So, Romanticism and Transcendentalism are seen as reactions to changes that made the world more aligned with Enlightenment values and less hospitable for people who wanted to be free and independent.