Study Guide

Transcendentalism Timeline

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How It All Went Down

1832: Ralph Waldo Emerson gives his Unitarian ministry the heave-ho

Watch out, world, Emerson is a rebel with a cause. A Transcendental cause, of course. He hands in his resignation to signify that he's growing dissatisfied with the Unitarian Church, and he's got better plans for humanity—spiritually and otherwise.

1836: The Transcendental Club bursts into being

A bunch of literary brainiacs start getting together to talk smack about the Unitarian Church. Then they decide that's not so productive and decide to discuss literature, spirituality, and nature. And a movement is born.

1836: Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes "Nature"

Emerson's book-length essay is—brace yourself—all about the wonders of nature. And how to incorporate those wonders into a more meaningful way of life. Buckle your (metaphysical, eco-friendly) seat-belts, Transcendentalism is about to go full steam ahead!

1840: The journal The Dial is founded because the Transcendentalists can't get their things published in the real world

And so this is the journal that becomes the Transcendentalist mouthpiece. Many writers of the movement publish work in it. Dial that up!

1845: Margaret Fuller gets her publish on with Woman in the Nineteenth Century

Huzzah for women's rights! Fuller gives men an (insightful and tactful) earful in this political tract.

1849: Henry David Thoreau gives injustice a smackdown in "Civil Disobedience"

In this essay, Thoreau shows us how civil disobedience gets itself done, and inspires future generations of civilly disobedient folk.

1854: Henry David Thoreau publishes Walden

Thoreau lives in the woods. He does it all alone. Doesn't talk to anyone for years. Until he gets a publisher and sends this hotcake to the presses.

1854: Hold onto your hats! Transcendentalist superstars Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman meet for the first time

Walt Whitman's got a draft of some pretty sweet poems but has yet to make his mark on the literary scene. So it's way inspiring when he meets his hero Emerson. That deserves a poem or two!

1855: Walt Whitman cranks out the first edition of Leaves of Grass

The publication of this book would change the face of American poetry. Forever.

1861: Cannons on the horizon! States start seceding in droves and the Civil War gets its start

The battle over slavery—not to mention America's soul—begins for realz. Try getting Transcendental about that.

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