American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide



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To do without hope of reward, to do for the sake of doing, good, the subtle sense of duty to the world that is, always, on the outside of the self- that is what I seek… is what I feel is missing from the world, or society, my family, friends… myself.  Studying the early conservationists leads me to feel conflicted.  I see the roots of the movement becoming branches, reaching out from the depths of selfishness and supremacy of man; the great taker, the great user, so often the abuser of himself, the world.  These branches extend, become touched by the light of the Sun, the moon, rocked by weather, by nature, by the God, the Spirit, the all which is greater than the sum of its parts ,which is not seen or felt- at least not directly, when man’s awareness is enveloped in the soil of the self, ego, separateness. 


I look so forward to revisiting Rachel Carson, she seems to reach out so far, to extend consciousness, awareness, responsibility, selflessness, to embrace the beauty and mystery of nature while admitting and illustrating man’s (in)significance in light of the All that surrounds us, encompasses us, creates and destroys us- IS US


“Nature writing” has become a confusing term, and has led me to explore the meaning, my meaning I suppose, of ‘nature’ and ‘environment’….  These two parts of the same whole used almost interchangeably at times, about which I feel a nagging discomfort…


Nature- beauty, serenity, peace… the generalized, superficial (?) images of babbling brooks, frolicking deer in a woodland meadow; the richness of a forest in the fall… these subjects of paintings, prose, of a connection with Godliness (cleanliness?)…


Environment- holistic, inclusive, literal, scientific, composed of parts with an integral significance.  An image of the Earth, from above or beyond comes to mind, composed of not only ‘nature’, but people, and their various footprints.  Emphasis is on change, evolution, growth, death, constant flux- homeostasis… the divine balance, the tragedy, the mystery, the fragmented truths that are eternally unknowable.  These are subjects of debate, outrage, passion…


   Emily Messenger is an Environmental Studies major at Shepherd University (Spring 2006).

"American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide" was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd University (formerly Shepherd College), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. The courses were taught again in Spring 2006 by Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit "About This Site." © 2003 and 2006 Linda Tate.