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The Transcendentalists and Their World (Hardcover)

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The eminent and award-winning historian Robert A. Gross presents his long-awaited, immersive journey through Concord in the age of Emerson and Thoreau.

The Transcendentalists and Their World offers a fresh view of the thinkers whose outsize impact on philosophy and literature would spread from tiny Concord to all corners of the earth. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcotts called this New England town home, and Thoreau drew on its life extensively in his classic Walden. But Concord from the 1820s through the 1840s was no pastoral place fit for poets and philosophers.

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The eminent and award-winning historian Robert A. Gross presents his long-awaited, immersive journey through Concord in the age of Emerson and Thoreau.

In the year of the nation’s bicentennial, Robert A. Gross published The Minutemen and Their World, a paradigm-shaping study of Concord, Massachusetts, during the American Revolution. It won the prestigious Bancroft Prize and became a perennial bestseller. Forty years later, in this highly anticipated new work, Gross returns to Concord and explores the meaning of an equally crucial moment in the American story: the rise of transcendentalism.

The Transcendentalists and Their World offers a fresh view of the thinkers whose outsize impact on philosophy and literature would spread from tiny Concord to all corners of the earth. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcotts called this New England town home, and Thoreau drew on its life extensively in his classic Walden. But Concord from the 1820s through the 1840s was no pastoral place fit for poets and philosophers.

The transcendentalists and their neighbors lived through a transformative epoch of American life. A place of two thousand–plus souls in the antebellum era, Concord was a community in ferment, whose small, ordered society founded by Puritans and defended by Minutemen was dramatically unsettled through the expansive forces of capitalism and democracy and tightly integrated into the wider world. These changes challenged a world of inherited institutions and involuntary associations with a new premium on autonomy and choice. They exposed people to cosmopolitan currents of thought and endowed them with unparalleled opportunities. They fostered uncertainties, raised new hopes, stirred dreams of perfection, and created an audience for new ideas of individual freedom and democratic equality deeply resonant today.

The Transcendentalists and Their World is both an intimate journey into the life of a community and a searching cultural study of major American writers as they plumbed the depths of the universe for spiritual truths and surveyed the rapidly changing contours of their own neighborhoods. It shows familiar figures in American literature alongside their neighbors at every level of the social order, and it reveals how this common life in Concord entered powerfully into their works. No American community of the nineteenth century has been recovered so richly and with so acute an awareness of its place in the larger American story.

Includes 16 Pages of Black-and-White Illustrations

More Information
ISBN 9780374279325
Length (cm) 15.0000
Width (cm) 5.0000
Height (cm) 23.0000
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date Nov 9, 2021
Pages (number) 864
Genre History, Politics, and Social Sciences
Author Robert A. Gross
Signed No
Format Hardcover
Editorial Reviews

“A rich and immersive portrait of 19th-century Concord, Massachusetts, and the Transcendentalist movement that originated there . . . Seamlessly integrating a wealth of primary and secondary sources into his narrative, Gross brings 19th-century New England to vivid life . . . This sweeping study brilliantly illuminates a crucial period in American history.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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