• American Renaissance Poetry (1840-1920)
This period includes poets such as Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, and Edgar Allen Poe. Historically, these were times of tragedies and celebrations including some as traumatic as the American Civil War or as great as the induction of new states such as Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii. Socially, many were focused on the art movement of Impressionism and Claude Monet’s influence, as well as the creation of the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The movement of poetry in this time period is focused on several different themes including Romanticism and Transcendentalism. The influence of Whitman and Dickinson are often said to be two of the most dramatic transformations, as these two poets were active participants in society and were known to widely experiment with different forms of poetry.

A Block ILA 9 Honors American Renaissance Group:

  • Jess Bellis
  • Carolyn Messer
  • James Gordon
  • Samantha Mikels
  • Jamie Ledwith

A Block American Renaissance Group
Mr. Gershman & Ms. Arsenault ILA 9 H

Historical Aspect Essay

Quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson (Stegelmann)

Origin and Philosophy
llllllllllllll The pit patter of rain on the slate roof above soothes your tired soul. Glancing at the warm fire you think to yourself what could be any better. Thinking back to before you moved to the country, a time when your city was covered in smog, the constant smell of burning coal polluting your body. At last you had had enough, now you sit here, your woodland retreat. Away from the urban industry and all that you breathe is clean country air. Now in seclusion from metropolitan industry you live your modest life as a transcendentalist.
llllllllllllllStarting in England in the 1700’s to 1800’s the industrial revolution became too much for some of the inhabitants of the city. The industry controlled the city but many people believed that man was harming the world. People began to believe that with the development of industry man was regressing rather than progressing, thus harming the world instead of using technology to improve it. The group of people that believed primarily in these ideas called themselves transcendentalists. Many renowned transcendentalists included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, William Blake, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Carlyle (Moss and Wilson).
Transcendentalists would use environments such as this for inspiration. (ManYee DeSandies)
Transcendentalists would use environments such as this for inspiration. (ManYee DeSandies)
llllllllllllllTranscendentalists had many core beliefs, many of which related back to how we acquire knowledge of the world, of oneself, and of life. It was believed that knowledge is not limited but can only be derived from experience and observation of the world. A core belief of the transcendentalists was knowledge of the physical world was gleaned through the senses of the transcendentalists (Clendennington). Another core belief was that all wisdom comes from nature, and that to understand something you must first experience it. Transcendentalists also believe that knowledge must be acquired first hand (Moss and Wilson). In addition, they thought that we could learn of spirit through reason. Transcendentalists also believed that the solution to man’s problems could only be solved through the development of individual emotions (Clendennington).
llllllllllllllFrom the 1800’s to the 1900’s another new movement took place in literature known as Romanticism. This was a movement which viewed nature as a living good spirit. It asserted the feelings of love and compassion through literature (Lipking). Many of the Romantics were also poets. Some of which were Blake, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Byron, and Poe (Moss and Wilson “Literature and Its Times”). In addition many of the Romantic poets were drawn to the supernatural and gothic style of writing. An example of this is one of the most famous poets Edger Allen Poe (Lipking).
Edgar Allan Poe (Monocarc80)

llllllllllllllRomanticism preached the main concepts of reverence for nature, reverence for the child, a nd reverence for the individual. These three ideas together reasserted the values of love, compassion, and emotion. The Romantics gave dignity to all men and women, and believed the individual was more important than the church, state, and tradition (Packard).
llllllllllllllThrough the themes and thoughts of Romanticism and Transcendentalism, the American Renaissance movement originated. Poets of the 19th and 20th centuries
A Good Place For Trancedentalists to Write Poetry (Forest)
were influenced by the philosophy of the Transcendentalists and Romantics in many ways. Many took the core idea of nature to heart, and used it as the main component of their poetry. Others started using emotion and instinct rather than reason and logic for writing and expressing their feelings. Through art and the art of poetry, the American Renaissance was started and continued through the harsh times of the American Civil War.

Significant Political HistoryllllllllllllllllThe Civil War was a battle that began between the North and South regions of the United States of America. The North and South were becoming increasingly different in many areas, including their economies and their general beliefs. The economy in the North was based on trade and manufacturing, and improving transportation and communication. The North mostly supported the Whig Party’s idea of federal supremacy and leadership of the nation’s economy. They supported government interference in the economy and in social issues (“Sectionalism”).
llllllllllllllThe Southern region of the United States economy was based on agriculture rather than trade and manufacturing. They were focused on the plantation system, which resulted in little industry. Also, the South relied completely on African slaves. The Southerners cherished their history and viewed the national modernization and industrialization as suspicious. They supported an easygoing, gracious way of life, keeping their traditions alive (“Sectionalism”).
llllllllllllllThe Civil War was not only about slavery, but also about economic differences, political differences, and social differences. The South was attempting to split from the Union. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee all withdrew from the union, and formed the Confederate States of America. Abraham Lincoln became the 16th president and stated that from now on, no state was permitted to own slaves. Northerners were making their disapproval of the Southerners' use of slavery public, and also showed that they disliked the South’s attitude towards the government. The South was defending their use of slavery by stating that the Bible approved of the act (“A War Begins”). They told writers that most slaves were content with their life, which people believed because communication was limited at the time ("Abolition"). They also were attempting to expand slavery into new territories, upsetting the North even more (“A War Begins”).
Confederate and Union Soldiers ("Soldiers")

llllllllllllllOn December 20, 1860, the war was officially started by the United States declaring war on the Confederate States. The Northerners were fighting to preserve the union, and the Southerners fought to give the right to "secede and establish a nation that guaranteed a person's right to own slaves,” (“A War Begins”). Neither party was fully prepared for the war ahead, but the North had its advantages. The Northern region had a larger population for military force, money, credit, food production, mineral resources, and transportation. The South was hurt by food shortages, unpredictable slave laborers, shortages of medicine, and heavy artillery, but their one advantage was the South had more war experienced men. The Civil War was a time of misery, want, and worry by individuals on the warfront, in addition to their attempts to comfort and support their soldiers. The South’s small advantage did not help much because they experienced more want and misery than the North. Thousands of women had to fulfill the role of running family farms and plantations because their husbands were in war (“War on the Homefront”).
llllllllllllllThe South was highly discriminative and prejudiced towards Africans and African Americans. According to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a federal marshal could capture any runaway slave, and require any certain citizen to help them. If this citizen refused to help, then they could be sent to prison for up to six months, and be fined $1,000 (“Compromises and Decisions”). Also, the racial tensions in this war were building up. Several hate crimes were committed during this time, mostly towards people of either African or African American descent. The fiercest attacks were against African Americans. Protestors put the blame of the war on slavery. They also disliked free slaves because as soon as they were freed, they became competition for low paying jobs. The war that had started
A Civil War reenactment (Barryspics).
in 1860 finally came to an end in 1865. The North won overall, and the abolitionists finally were victorious. The Civil War brought changes in life for the slaves who had been fre
ed or were to be freed in the future, and it let women go back to their old ways of employment (“War on the Homefront”).

Specific and Influential Cultural Events
llllllllllllllThroughout the American Renaissance, many people's lives and culture were changed sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. During these times, slavery was going on, and kept going on until it was finally abolished in 1865 (the most significant result of the Civil War). Before and in the beginning of the war, slavery was at large. Plantations were everywhere in the south. On every plantation were plenty of slaves- working hard, sun up to sun down and receiving little compensation. During the war, slaves were forced to go in and fight. As a result of the war, slavery was abolished, therefore, all slaves were freed. Some of the former slaves made the “great exodus” to the northern states where they could live freely. The majority of the former slaves made the migration to the north where they got jobs and started their lives as free people of color. However, racism still remained in the north. African-Americans could live freely, but were still poorly treated by the rest of society. Over the years, laws like the Jim Crow Laws and the Separate-but-Equal Act have been abolished. Now all races live freely in America. This is one example of a cultural change in society during the American Renaissance.
llllllllllllllNot only was America prejudice against African-Americans during this time, but they were also racist against the Chinese and Native Americans (“Racism in America”). They were not allowed in the public schools that the white children attended and they were not permitted to have high paying jobs.
Families both slaves and non-slaves were affected by the Civil War (Soba).
They lived their lives as laborers. The slaves were not the only ones affected by the Civil War, however. Plantation owners and other people, primarily the upper class, had to go fight if they were drafted. While at war, the wives of the plantation owners had to take their husband’s place and run the plantations themselves. This was hard for the wives because they were not used to the job and they also had their other responsibilities to take care of while still trying to manage a successful plantation. Almost all families went hungry and were placed in a large amount of debt. People also lost a lot of family and friends who died in battle.
llllllllllllllNext, during the American Renaissance, women gained more rights when the Declaration of Rights for Women was created in 1876. This declaration gave women natural rights, equality, and the power to do whatever a man was legally allowed to do (“Declaration of Women's Rights"). New transportation systems were also developing and more people were moving to the western states of America.
llllllllllllllPoetry also affected and inspired people during the time of the American Renaissance. The poetry written in this era is said to “be an expression of national spirit” ("American Renaissance”). Most poetry was written about the positive aspects of America and how great it was, especially after the Civil War. People found a new sense of hope. This inspired writers to create optimistic poetry and feel good about the country they lived in, which positively impacted the people. Poets often included the political aspects of life in their works during this time.

The Influence of Poetry Among Society
Ralph Waldo Emerson (House).
From 1840 to 1920, the Civil War, Romanticism, and Transcendentalism influenced writers and poets through their ideas and events. As the poets of this time were influenced by these movements and thoughts, they went on to inspire society of the near and far future. The poets of the Transcendentalist movement exposed their poetry and works to society through their quarterly magazine, The Dial. Another way the people were informed of the ideas and poetry during the American Renaissance was through major icons of the movement speaking at lectures. Many accomplished poets of the time, if resources were available, had their works published, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work Nature (Wayne). Even though these writings and poems were written over a century ago, the importance of the works during the American Renaissance are not and will never be forgotten. From Edgar Allan Poe’s supernatural works, to the brilliant poems of Walt Whitman, and to the contradictory writings of Emily Dickinson, the works produced during this era will always be a part of American history.

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