thumbnail of New England renaissance; Transcendentalists and us
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Listen to the sound of education in early New England. Listen to the sound of religion in early New England. New England Runnels on. The National Association of Broadcasters. This is Donald bone professor of humanities at Boston University. That's the last New England run a sound program we'd like to try to get
together by offering a panel discussion of interest we're going to discuss the influence of the times and doubtless on our lives today and to assist us. We have him studio Dr. Miller of the department Harvard University. Outstanding authority right on the Transcendentalists. Professor why honest pride of the history department College of Liberal Arts Boston University and Dr. Richard Copland Department College of Liberal Arts Boston University who has served as research consultant for the New England Renaissance series. Let's get started with this question. What effect on our present day lives from the Transcendentalist. Well that's in a sense of the metaphysics.
The transcendentalists a pretty wow. Gone down the drain. I don't think anybody any longer could take it seriously as a metaphysical proposition. I mean the metaphysics and Emerson nature for example. But on the other hand think how poor America would be how poor and empty past it would have if you just took the transcendentalists out of it and I think the thing that I have important that they be in the tradition of the baby remember the people I impart the sense of the individual. The really great thing they were able to do was to give a new meaning American meaning to the sense of the individual. That's why I always think that one of the great documents is a Muslim's historic notes of a Life in Letters in New England that lecture with the other new old age in which is published. In the collected works in which he says that the former generations acted under the belief that a shining social prosperity was the beatitude of man
and sacrified uniformly the citizens of the state. The modern man he says meaning he and his group believe that the nation existed for the individual for the guardianship and education of every man and one after another even the most ridiculous of them say that in some way or other. And that's something I think is important that the people live long as they are there in the books and in their colleges and studied in the classroom. They'll help keep it alive. Dr. Carpenter I don't think that's the M.O. that the whole emphasis on individual ism is very necessary and valuable right now that perhaps although we wouldn't want to try to create an influence we can do it in a shadow of the transcendental it's coming into our present house here I think for that reason they're very inspired. There's something to go back to and to get courage from in that sense I agree.
Warren try honest Darren how much you. I'm afraid that I regard the Transcendentalist primarily as important for their own time what they have to say to us I'm not quite so sure. This very matter of individual ism which is inspiring in days such as we have at the present time. I admit it but I feel also that their doctrine of individual ism has been exploited for purposes which perhaps they never intended. That is one can easily see for example the Emerson doctrine can be used to exploit and to defend the most ruthless forms of economic and social competition at the present time and I think frequently has been. I admit that Emerson himself would never compromise probably such points of view. But. Easily taken into channels which he did not attend. Well I agree there are a lot of in Everson especially if it just simply isn't useful today. I thoroughly agree that many of the sentences that he uttered the most quotable sounds got one problem with him
is he's too quotable. My arm are certainly used for purposes that are very far removed from Emerson's own but on the other hand you can't blame a man who can't blame a group of people because later generations mists of pride their ideas or their sentences. You just can't blame them. And of course the great concept of the individual and Imus and I think we're beginning to realize that they are. But it's much more profound and much more extensive and much more challenging than for a long time it was thought and was something has been made into a kind of orthodoxy and taught in your schools until people gone to sleep have been listening to him and now there are many many passages in which you have a startling effect when you open your eyes wide and read them afresh. But I agree there's much that's very heady and Emerson. But I wonder if he doesn't fit you. Perhaps better he does maturity. I came across to a curious statement just the other day I think it was Abbott allowances which
gives some indication of what businessman thought of Emerson at the time. He said Mr Emerson is a very amiable gentleman but who would go to Mr. Emerson for wisdom. What kind of values do you find going back to the transcendental if gratings what kind of value do you find helpful to you today here and now. Now we've already mentioned started to mention Imus and I would think use integrity for instance. But certainly he would wear one for oh what would they do in this world or the United States today what would they say about it all. Brought me back in jail now. Yes I travel nothing for borrowers these days he might send it out in the woods I suppose which wouldn't be a bad idea. I like the difference between sort o going to want to go along on a group or another group of parents and dumplings banding together it's a book form of programs and one of these different approaches to have a better way of driving I've tried to indicate that my knowledge of what actually the group
gives rise to two movements one in the direction of the individual and one that in the social direction and they don't accentuate either of them quite so markedly that you have a real wide contrast but still the contrast is there and the issue is faced and in a sense you can say that the group dies out because of this issue of those who go off on the individual stick side individuals and if they aren't great ones like Doro recently lost in those who band together lost in the failure of such things as Brook Farm. But the issue is there and that seems to me something very important. Not that they settle it but are they right to oppose it. But isn't it true to come back to this original point that we have of the influence of the transcendental s today. That we have to consider what directions that influence has shown itself. It may be that they did not intend to have their individual as amused as it is being used at the present
time but from the point of view of modern influences have not those who have wanted to exploit use this individual ism for their own purposes use an individual ism but I don't know what you call ever Amazonian one of our all I've ever done with them is in their use of fuel these passages but they have been what they are anyway. We could use Jefferson Jackson point of reference. What I have been more or less fascinated with is. Very difficult to put your finger on that the the whole notion in American society of idealism. It is something besides the material something besides the dollar hunting which we're supposed to be so controlled by I suppose it comes from a number of sources but it seems to me that the transcendental it's certainly an influential group in their own time must've had something to deliver. It's very difficult if not impossible to call out one dream of influence.
But I rather think they must have. Man important in that. Oh it's certainly not as line as long as we read them they will remain important but I think that's tied up with another element which makes them very much alive today especially amorous and thorough course. And that is their influence on actual on prose work with language when you think that is what they had to do with language in America in the 1830s in a sense that their most important I think for helping to make an American language an American style there of course the influence of the Koran continues to be I think very very powerful on all sorts of writers notably for example on E.B. White the New Yorkers don't notice that in recent years since the war Warren has been the most popular book among the freshmen who read a good deal of American matricular world and always comes up.
Proust write about us will be reading in second might but not fall back on I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that simplicity was the last refuge of the complex. Where one of them might be the. I know you've been saying I'm a woman. I'm like a lot of Evreux deceptively simple have great simplicity and be complex. Maybe that's due to the nice pictures he draws of wall and all of the misinterpretation of a skate that the students particularly fresh grass I get I'm glad that they read Torah but I think the more they're grown the more they live with it. The prayer fine that is I suppose one of the most deceptively simple things about it is the notion that it is escape that this is a quiet meditation light upon which you try to read the famous passages try to read them quietly as though you were in solitude and that you
can't do it simplifies simplified. Oh and I say let your wants be ASMS I want a public speech it says Daniel Webster are reading it isn't a solitary meditation a door. Let me come back to something you said a moment ago Perri. You said. So all of you are alive today in writing as he did would be put back in jail. Now what happened to America. What values can we find what values do we find when we read a Muslim Torah. That would help us to live in this world a little more effectively. Why why would he have to go back to jail. What have we lost in America or what have we gained or what is this. Oh how I had to say guys that he went to jail because he wouldn't play the ponies lag and I think it was finally paid for and he didn't care if he wanted to do it was all right but it was the Internal Revenue bureau was not so efficient in those days. If I wanted to go on refusing to pay to actually be caught very quickly today where
I lived in the area and tax collector with inefficient. So on that score way have lost that inefficiency. Well let's let's go back to the reason we did not pay a poll tax or refused to the Mexican War he was against that. What chance would you have of what do you have today to oppose. A war to speak out against whatever you didn't like and I would want something now. The right of the individual to free speech. Well Japs can speak out that they want to pay the price for oh is that it was what it drives and I think you would at well I suppose a thorough would be one of the reasons why people feel they can speak out gives them that kind of a background he's a gadfly to it. If we read him. We certainly did have influence on our. Total influence on Gandhi but not on their first drive was to blame.
Rugged individualism on Amazon they're going to blame gun 100 quite well and I don't wish to be misunderstood I have great admiration for both Emerson and particularly for thorough. My feeling is however and if we're looking for the ideal that they represent they were the best spokesman for their time I think we often make the mistake of assuming that because something is good at one time it must necessarily have a carry over into another. I have a feeling as I read particularly thorough with his sort of philosophic anarchy as a that he doesn't fit into these times he has little to say for us despite the fact he is a tremendously inspiring figure for say the mid 19th century. It isn't his fault nor perhaps ours that our times have changed into a new direction. What vanity really represents to use that same unhappy phrase I flowering for the mid 19th century indicates what a society can do at its best but is his best our best. Well this would be a profound disagreement between you and me and I know that point of view point of view we are speaking here have great
currency today. There are maybe a lot of by spokesman you would like to do that is there are a great many people who are saying well we have now passed out of the 19th century and some form of consolidation. And this is being said either by very conservative people of course or by the extreme left. And for either of them is a bad figure. That reminds me of the thing in a new book out by Richard Mosher the American temper which. Places transcendental ism as one of the most important phases of the American mind Puritanism the Enlightenment transcendentalism not the American renaissance in general but the transcendental is part and the people who are involved in it. And then modern Tampa he evidently whether he is right and not thinks that death has put an end to the whole American picture and also always important to was.
What other questions what are the values that we find today might. Help us to understand better and live better America. If education today is concerned with training young people to live in the world in which they find themselves I wonder if we don't mislead them with our new star whatever so many doctrines are dying for a different kind of society I like the little one mostly to preach conformity that Alex Laddie is it isn't that they have alll our young people fit into it I think that they ought to be misfits in somewhere that they're exactly what we need is a little more Amazonian ism a little more thorough I keep pointing out that civil disobedience is a crackpot idea. But we need that kind of crackpot idealism once in a while the keep it up to keep us from fitting into neatly into the into the groove. I agree we need people with their courage. But I'm not I'm going to have a gritty and their integrity and that I'm not not well and I mean what
have you we do agree then that we need there in a spirit if we don't meet their actual practice less as a curtain here I think probably I may be overstating a little bit and I don't want to sound ridiculous or I don't want to get into unnecessary trouble but I think I'm a little worried of as a dry when we talk about training educating people for the world they live in and I think I'm more and more I'm trying to educate people so that they will be unsuited to this world that they will be unhappy and not at home and that. We have to make you know what I mean and now if you will by unhappiness. Well I mean on the unadjusted you and I don't want to perfectly and just give me China the person who sees that there are things that are wrong with the world and want to do something with that. But do we want them to do something about it in the Emersonian way that I don't care what way they do or just along there I'm happy I think that's something anyway a great stimulator.
That's what I have sometimes called that exactly. Fairly good I think we're very much agree with the this notion of training people just at home where our world or you are already a sponsor. Last I thought. We don't have a prayer writing a candied about America or this whole world about the very very better source to go to Amazon and thorough for than non-conformity it seems to me we do need we would agree I think it is all very noble but I see young men in my classes who are about to be drafted. Am I to tell them that Emerson regarded a person in a uniform is slightly ridiculous. You're mine aren't. I think someone I allus felt that I was slightly Riddick I know I want to thank There is much of the Amazonian point of view but I want to what's going to happen to the young man. Well if they don't have to improvise when we get the improvise better of enormous and thorough they will be out of the army or something.
I think if they have again their own Amazons courage it will help them. Well I think there are other people who can guide them better and so our liking God is in the army has its charms and so on but still this is a citizen army this American army that would keep them others and not give them us and for us what they would be better soldiers in the mechanicals and the militaristic sense that at the time I think we get more Emerson and other the less that's the difficulty of course which I am concerned about. It isn't anything but a mechanistic army and why not face that fact alone. And World War 2 now and I did just last summer and in Japan I kept seeing the boys coming out of Tokyo on what is called R R rest recreation and I live talked with hundreds of them and their machinery and the Army of course the three think tanks and the big guns are bigger and more mechanistic about being human beings are. Really quite amazing now they're wonderful boys and they need this kind of thing
that their soul and the drama of their lives may I am going to play the story I heard the other day about a woman who is certainly important the result of Margaret Fuller and her women's rights ideas. The lady I'm talking about term member of the League of Women Voters. And she got so enthusiastic about a party did neglect her housework on occasion. Her seven year old child came to her one day and said Mommy is a pervert. We come from dust and the mother said some of us believe that it is a truth that we go back into dust. Mother said yes it was believed not well Mommy I just looked on be your bread and believe me there's somebody coming or going. I'm not that kind of rude but it seems to me that my maternity leave is certainly part of the result of one of the transcendentalists while I suppose the
transcendentalists had a good deal of ducked under a good many beds and oh I'm so not in their housekeeping. Well these of a thought in tangible achievements that I find in the transcendentalists the setting up of say their public school system or setting up the demand for equality of women with men. I find more substance to that than I do to the actual ideas ideals of the poor. Well that is what I mean with the metaphysics. Pretty hard I think it would seem odd with many but they're all there are people who still today can believe in it but the idea that nature corresponds to mind beautiful thought it has many many times of course but you just I don't suppose anybody post Darwin and post Einstein can possibly believe that I've ever come back to earth and want to say what's valuable about these people is not what they thought was the center of their intellectual life but the
consequence of the listener which we don't agree with. And yet the consequences of more left that with mire and those generally do take the form of social or political consequence. Doc Donald when we were book form said that the he believed the Transcendentalist movement was a flowering of Unitarianism not a break with it. What about that. Yeah I was in love but I had no idea how much of a good break from that I question of the IJA I you could argue I've liked like to argue that Emerson was not was I don't mean a break with Unitarianism but a recrudescence of Puritanism without Puritan theology present I think but I know the Unitarian churches today as they're very different from the Unitarians that were shocked by Imus and have all saturated the Amazonian so that I understand from some acquaintances of mine that
certain branches of Unitarianism that are practically transcendental that their humanistic Unitarianism what about this idea that Amazon impossibly sorow did go back to a kind of Calvinistic Puritanism. Well knew that would be you'd have to be careful watch your language not dogmatize too easily but you could put it this way that there are certain hungers of the soul certain needs for spiritual satisfaction or certain offer excitement excitation which the Puritans of New England stock got out of it's the ology. One that the island was young as it was by the variants they found what the Unitarians offer in the way of rationalism not satisfying enough and so they had to go find more stimulus simulation they couldn't go back to predestination and the election
results were great so they went the correspondence of the reason the understanding magination on point three and the gap excitement there are chanting with him. Yeah well that isn't back then the ideal of a whole forest that as they broke with their past they invite us to break with ours including them including them. Yeah yeah that's right. Be a follower of Emerson now. Now. But certainly your cum emulator lovably to be a follower of him you have to break away from my own yourself and be a proper follow you have to believe it. That's why though I wonder what you link to transcend a moment ago there's thing which always causes me to wonder and listen as mine leave valuable for young people. What do you think of that. Well I think he is valuable for young people because young people are not hot not crystallized in their ideas but I think that that is the
fault of older people rather than all of them if we get too well thought. And older people need and with some of the things I won't do that is freeing as an oh man I'm glad that you say that because I find that's true in my own case that I was brought up when I was over Emerson was shoved down my throat and out of my ears I was a boy and I thought it was wonderful and then in the twenties I rejected this is all nonsense and I would join with all of the people made fun of them listen old maid James and dance just so Adams and they had someone going to go out and sing but I'm fine now I go back and I was and over and over again and I am amazed at how clever. Let me see if I can summarize the opinions as we've heard them in this panel discussion. There was of course some disagreement over whether we should emulate Imus and so our own some of the Transcendentalist ideas. But surely you know how
to drum the Transcendentalists. We find an improvement in our school systems. Certainly something I would think of improvement in women's rights. Certainly a change in some religious ideas and perhaps for a Muslim in prayer almost important their effect on the American language and our literature. But above all it seems to me the agreement would have come on certain qualities like the values the value of integrity courage above all of self-reliance. Thank you gentlemen for your discussion. Lesson as we like to say that the members of our panel today were Dr. Perry Miller of the English department Harvard University an outstanding authority and editor of the book the transcendentalists Professor whine as triumph of the history
department College of Liberal Arts Boston University author of four Americans and Dr. Richard Carpenter English department College of Liberal Arts Boston University where there's discussion on the influence of the transcendentalists on our lives today. We bring to a close our radio treatment of the New England renaissance a movement that contrasts the conflict the individual thinkers of this period and I history all of made definite contributions to our heritage and society today. The transcendentalists and their friends left for us social economic and religious advances Plus a wide horizon of literary contributions. If we were to draw one basic conclusion make one important observation about them. It would be that these idealists these vision eyes many of whom were laughed at during their own time. Nonetheless have given us a new perspective and no respect for the importance of the
individual man. And his own mind. This one fact is out above everything else in knowing the Renaissance. This has been the New England run of songs written and produced the Boston University for the National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the fund for adult education. The New England Renaissance was produced and directed by George W. Sloan Jr. assisted by William Bagot and Mel grey. Our script was written by Sidney a diamond Dr. Richard C. carpenter was a research and content consultant Professor Donald Bourne was narrator the music for this program was taken from Charles
Ives composition three places in. This program we conclude the New England Renaissance era. We hope you have enjoyed the broadcasts which were written and prepared in the Boston University studios of WB you are for the National Association of educational broadcasters. Actors in the New England run us on series where from the George Gershwin memorial workshop at Boston University. This is them lips speaking. This is the network.
New England renaissance
Transcendentalists and us
Producing Organization
WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-gh9b9p1r).
Episode Description
A discussion of transcendental influence on modern thought featuring Dr. Perry Miller of Harvard University.
Series Description
A dramatic re-creation of the New England Renaissance produced at Boston University. In this part of the series, the Transcendentalists are viewed from the perspective of 1954, when this program was recorded.
Broadcast Date
New England--History--1775-1865
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Advisor: Carpenter, Richard, 1916-
Director: Sloan, George, W., Jr.
Producer: Boston University
Producing Organization: WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
Speaker: Bourne, Donald
Speaker: Parker, Theodore, 1810-1860
Speaker: Rightmire, Rod
Writer: Diamond, Sidney, A.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-2-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:28
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “New England renaissance; Transcendentalists and us,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 1, 2023,
MLA: “New England renaissance; Transcendentalists and us.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 1, 2023. <>.
APA: New England renaissance; Transcendentalists and us. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from