Where else in American history (besides the early 1800's) have you seen Transcendentalist ideals exemplified by people?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would say that one significant moment in American History where the tenets of Transcendentalism could be seen would be in the Beat Generation. Transcendentalism and the Beat Generation can parallel one another.  On one level, Transcendentalism encouraged individuals to find their own voice and reject social expectations of conformity.  This spirit was evident in the Beat Generation, which asserted the idea that there must be a rejection of conventionality. The ideals of one time period can be seen in the other. 

Another area where the Beat Generation exemplified Transcendentalist ideals is in how they both expressed their thoughts in a unique and distinctive manner. Transcendentalist writers like Thoreau sought new ways to express his ideas, writing from a subjective point of view in works like Walden.  His subjectivity became a distinct characteristic of his style.  In much the same way, Beat Generation writers were unique in their approach to their work.  Poets like Ginsberg and writers like Kerouac were written in unique styles intrinsic to the Beat Generation.  The expression of artistic products in the Beat Generation through distinctive styles helps to reinforce the ideals of Transcendentalism.

Finally, the ideal of Transcendentalism that wished to transform society could be seen in the Beat Generation. Transcendentalism sought to make a larger change in the social setting. Transcendentalist thinkers desired to change the larger social consciousness. The Transcendentalist thinker believed that the artist's obligation was to create work that would enable wider and more divergent thought to take place in the mind of the individual.  In the same manner, the Beat Writer felt that there was a transformational element within the movement.  Alan Ginsberg speaks to this: "Nobody knows whether we were catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose."  Beat Generation writers echo the Transcendentalist ideal of seeking to move what is into what can be.  In these ways, the Beat Generation was a period in American History where people exemplified the Transcendentalist ideals.

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