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Teaching Transcendentalism Unit

Timeline: About 4-6 weeks, depending on how much time is spent in class discussing
and what extension activities are chosen.

Day One:
1. Reading Journal Entry #1. Share and discuss student entries.
2. Introduce Transcendentalism. Pass out lecture notes (Handout 1) and discuss with
class.
3. Go over Emerson bio on pg. 238. Discuss the quote, “The end of the human race will
be that it will eventually die of civilization.” What do students think that means? How
might that quote fit within Transcendentalism?
4. Read chapter one of “Nature” by Emerson. Stop to discuss and explain as needed.
5. After reading, have students complete the questions about “Nature.” (Handout 2) If
not completed in class, it is homework.

Day Two:
1. Reading Journal #2. Share and discuss student entries.
2. Go over questions from “Nature” as a class to ensure all students understand the
excerpt. Mark student papers that were not completed as homework as these will only
receive half credit for completing assignments during class discussion.
3. Read excerpt from “Self-Reliance.” Stop to discuss and explain as needed.
4. After reading, have students complete the questions about “Self-Reliance.” (Handout
3).

Day Three:
1. Reading Journal #3. Share and discuss student entries.
2. Allow students some time to finish “Self-Reliance” questions (10 minutes max). Then
go over questions as a class, again marking those who did not work on the assignment
prior to class discussion.
3. Read Henry David Thoreau bio on pg. 250
4. Begin reading selections from “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” from Walden.
(lit book pg. 253-255).

Day Four:
1. Reading Journal #4. Share and discuss student entries.
2. Finish reading excerpts from Walden.
3. Have students complete the Walden questions (Handout 4). Go over questions as a
class, marking those who did not work on the assignment prior to class discussion.

Day Five:
1. Reading Journal #5. Share and discuss student entries.
2. Start reading “Civil Disobedience” excerpt pg. 258. Stop to discuss and explain as
needed.
3. Have students begin working on “Civil Disobedience” questions (Handout 5). If they
do not finish in class, it is homework.
Day Six:
1. Reading Journal #6. Share and discuss student entries.
2. Go over “Civil Disobedience” questions as a class, marking those who did not work
on the assignment prior to class discussion.
3. Have students read copies of Martin Luther King’s speech, “I Have a Dream”
(Handout 6). Students must mark “I Have a Dream” and answer the questions (see
Handout 7 and 8).

Day Seven:
1. Pass out and explain the essay assignment (see Handout 9).
2. Work on comparing passages; students are in lab typing up essays.

Day Eight:
1. Work on comparing passages; students are in lab typing up comparisons. Essays are
DUE today.

Day Nine:
1. Reading Journal #7. Share and discuss student entries.
1. Read Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Have students do “Road Not
Taken” questions (see Handout 10 and 11) and discuss with class—how is this poem
Transcendental??

Day Ten:
1. Reading Journal #8. Share and discuss student entries.
2. Pass out the Themes of Transcendentalism chart (see Handout 12).
3. Play songs that show Transcendentalist themes (see Handout 13). Students must mark
on their charts where they see examples of Transcendentalism in the songs.
4. At the end of each song, discuss possible Transcendental elements.

Day Eleven:
1. Pass out a new Themes of Transcendentalism chart (Handout 12). Students worked
on identifying the themes while hearing Transcendentalist songs, and now they must
go back through the literature read during the unit and identify at least one example of
each theme in the literature. This is to help students review for their final project.

Day Twelve:
1. Go over Themes of Transcendentalism chart for the literature. Collect assignments.
2. Begin test review (I used a copy of the test and asked questions from the test).

Day Thirteen:
1. Pass out Transcendental test (see Handout 14). Students can use their literature books
and/or copies of the literature read in class.

Day Fourteen:
1. Pass out Transcendental Final Project (see Handout 15). Explain the project, rubric
(see Handout 16), and answer student questions.
2. Have students begin working.

Day Fifteen:
1. Continue working on booklets.

Day Sixteen:
1. Booklets due.
2. Have students share their booklets with the class. Students must read at least 2 quotes
that were important to them and explain their importance.
Transcendentalism Reading Journal Entries
Reading Journal #1: Conformity and “Nature”
Ralph Waldo Emerson encouraged people to think for themselves and resist ‘the bonds of
conformity.’ Have you ever resisted the ‘bonds of conformity?’ What did you do? How did others
react to you? How did you feel? Do you believe you will resist the ‘bonds of conformity’ in the
future?
Do you think conformity is good or bad for society? How might conformity be a good thing?
How might conformity be a bad thing?

Reading Journal #2: “Self-Reliance”
Emerson suffered the loss of his father when he was young, one brother who died from
tuberculosis, and two who had mental illnesses. Emerson himself suffered from lung disease and
bouts of blindness. He also endured the death of his first wife and child. How do you think
dealing with these hardships may have affected Emerson? Could they have influenced his ideas
of divinity and truth? Relate a personal story of a time you dealt with hardships and how it
changed your views on life.

Reading Journal #3: “Walden”
What kind of life do you hope to someday lead? What kind of person do you want to be? Do you
want a family? Career? Fame? Fortune? Simplicity? Thoreau writes that he went to the woods
because, “I did not wish to live what was not life.” What would be living life for you? What
would NOT be life for you?

Reading Journal #4: “Walden,” cont.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different
drummer.” What do you think this quote means? What does this quote mean to you? Relate a
story about someone you know (or even yourself) who has “heard a different drummer.” What
was that person like? How were they different? How did others react to them? Relate a personal
story about a time you either resisted or went with conformity. What was it? How did you feel?
Would you do it again?

Reading Journal #5: “Civil Disobedience”
What do you think of when you hear “disobedient?”
If there was something you believed in, would you fight for it? What would you do?

Reading Journal #6: “I Have a Dream”
What are you dreams for yourself and the country? Why?
MLK’s speech was given almost 50 years ago. Do you believe that our country has achieved
some of what MLK dreamed it would? Why or why not?

Reading Journal #7: “The Road Not Taken”
Has there ever been a choice you’ve made that seemed to change everything for you? How did
this one choice change the path your life took? Do you wish you could go back and change it?
Why or why not?

Reading Journal #8: Themes of Transcendentalism and music
Is there any music that you listen to that changes your mood? What music is it and how do you
think it does that? What do you think makes music so powerful?
Handout 1

In the 1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson, a prominent Unitarian minister, left the church to
seek a more meaningful religious experience. Emerson argued that individuals could
discover truth and God within themselves without belonging to a church or holding to a
particular set of religious beliefs. He began to lecture and write about religion and the
world, and formed a discussion group with other men and women who had also broken
from the church. This group of people accepted Emerson’s idea that truth
“transcends” (or goes beyond) what people observe with their senses in the physical
world. They called their group the Transcendental Club, and soon they established a new
religious, philosophical, and literary movement. At first focusing on the “inner self,”
many Transcendentalists later became involved in social reform.

And so Transcendentalism was born. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "We will
walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own
minds...A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself
inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."

Henry David Thoreau joined Emerson’s circle of Transcendental friends, and built a hut
at Walden Pond on property owned by Emerson. For a few years, Thoreau lived off the
land, meditated, and wrote about nature. Thoreau agreed with Emerson’s view that
reform begins with the individual, and began to stop paying his taxes in protest against
slavery. The tax collector ignored his tax evasion until Thoreau began to publicly
condemn the U.S. invasion and occupation of Mexico. Thoreau was then arrested for tax
evasion and spent a night in jail. Thoreau wrote his famous essay, “Civil Disobedience”
after this night in jail. Thoreau’s minor act of defiance led him to conclude that it was not
enough to simply be against slavery and the war. Thoreau decided that a person of
conscious needed to act. Unlike other advocates of civil disobedience like Martin Luther
King, Jr., Thoreau did not rule out using violence against an unjust government.

Transcendentalists believed in the unity of all creation and that human nature contained
something that transcended, or went beyond, ordinary experience. They believed that
every person was divine, and so to trust or rely on the self was to trust God who spoke
within us. Transcendentalists maintained that through intuition we transcend the limits
of our senses and reason and come to know higher truths.

Themes of Transcendentalism:
Universal Spirit: Emerson found divine energy in all living things. Emerson called this
energy the universal spirit, universal consciousness, over-soul, or God. In Emerson’ s
way of thinking, this universal spirit gave all life meaning and purpose. From it came all
truth, beauty, and goodness. Emerson believed that God was present in every form in
nature, as well as in every human being, regardless of race, religion, or social status.
Transcendentalists believed that everyone needed to find and form their own meaningful
relationship with the universal spirit.

Self-Reliance/ Intuition: Emerson counseled his followers to seek God by looking
inward. Individuals should rely on their own heart and moral compass to guide their lives.
He advised followers to “trust your intuition,” since the source of this insight was God.

Self and Society: Emerson rejected the Puritan belief that all humans are born as sinful
creatures. He held a much more optimistic view that all men and women possessed a
natural capacity to do good and for society to progress. Emerson taught, however, that
individuals would first have to reform themselves before they could change society.
Transcendentalists believed that social activism was a direct result of an increased
relationship with God and self.

Direct Relationship with God and Nature: Transcendentalists believed that man had
removed himself too far from enjoying, appreciating, and learning from Nature. They
believed that in nature you could fully commune with God, learn of your relationship in
the world, and eschew modern conveniences in favor of using your mind to help you
learn higher truths about the human experience.

Transcendental influence went beyond literature:
Transcendental reformers took Emerson’s advice to “Be an opener of doors for those who
come after us;” and they were able to open doors for many others to discover their own
paths to a better America. Transcendental ideas later opened the door for the abolition of
slavery, women’s rights, progressive education, and in the 1960’s, Martin Luther King,
Jr. and anti-Vietnam war activists revived Transcendental arguments for civil
disobedience.

Much of the Transcendental movement was influenced by the writings
of Immanuel Kant, who wrote: "I call all knowledge transcendental
which is concerned, not with objects, but with our mode of knowing
objects so far as this is possible a priori [that is, independent of
reason]."
Handout 2
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”
Make sure to answer ALL PARTS of the questions!

1. What does Emerson mean when he says, “I am not solitary whilst I read and write,
though nobody is with me?”
2. Why should a man who wishes to be alone look up at the stars?
3. What might Emerson mean when he says, “The stars awaken a certain reverence,
because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a
kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence?” What does he mean
by ‘natural objects?’ How might someone open his or her mind to a ‘natural objects’
influence? What is meant by ‘kindred impression?’
4. Emerson believes that if we were to find out Nature’s secret, man might “lose his
curiosity by finding out all her perfection.” What does that mean? How can you relate
this quote to modern-day life?
5. If the sun “illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of
the child,” how might we all be able to enjoy and understand Nature? How must we
act? What spirit must we retain?
6. Can someone be glad “to the brink of fear?” What might that phrase mean?
7. Emerson believes that in the woods, we return to what two things?
8. In the woods, Emerson becomes what? What can this thing he becomes do (there are
two things)?
9. “In the tranquil landscape… man beholds…” what? How does this relate to
Transcendentalism?
10. What do you think Emerson means when he states, “Nature always wears the colors
of the spirit?”
11. How can people in modern times connect with nature in a meaningful way?
12. Write down and then summarize what you feel are the 5 MAIN POINTS of
Emerson’s essay. What points would you need to mention in order to share
Emerson’s insights with others?
Handout 3
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
1. According to Emerson, what things are “genius?”

2. Why does Emerson say men like Moses, Plato, and Milton are so admired? What did
they do that was different than others?

3. In every work of genius, what do we recognize?

4. What is bad about keeping your original and spontaneous ideas to yourself?

5. Emerson says that, “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the
conviction that…” what?

6. When Emerson says, “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards,” what
does he mean? Who would be the coward and why would God not want that?

7. According to Emerson, who should you trust and why? What THEME of
Transcendentalism does this fit with?

8. Emerson believes that society demands of its citizens one thing. What is that thing?

9. What is the thing from #8’s aversion?

10. Why is the answer to #8 the aversion to #9? Why are they polar opposites?

11. Complete the quote… “Whoso would be a man…”

12. What does Emerson believe is sacred?

13. What does Emerson say is ‘easy?’

14. What does Emerson believe makes a great man? Include the WHOLE QUOTE.

15. Do you think it is possible for people today to live as Emerson recommends? Why or
why not?

16. Write down and then summarize what you feel are the 5 MAIN POINTS of
Emerson’s essay. What points would you need to mention in order to share
Emerson’s insights with others?
Handout 4
Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”
Be sure to answer ALL PARTS of the questions!

1. Why does Thoreau go to live in the woods in the first place?
2. What do you think Thoreau means when he says, “I did not wish to live what was not
life.”
3. If life prove to be mean, what will Thoreau do?
4. If life proves sublime, what will Thoreau do?
5. Complete the quote: “Our life is…” What do you think this quote means?
6. What does Thoreau believe all men need to do to actually live and enjoy life?
7. How are our lives ‘cluttered’ and ‘ruined?’
8. What does Thoreau mean when he says, “We do not ride the railroad; it rides upon
us?”
9. What does Thoreau believe is the kind of work are men currently engaged in?
10. What does Thoreau say he could easily do without? Why could he do without this?
11. Why do we not need the newspaper? Do you agree with this statement? Why or why
not?
12. What does Thoreau belive is more important to learn than current news?
13. What is the quote that the “worthy messenger” brings? Write down the quote in its
entirety.
14. How does Thoreau say that can life become like a fairy tale?
15. What happens when we are “unhurried and wise?”
16. Who understands the true law and relations of life more clearly than men? Why do
you think Thoreau believes that?
17. Where do men believe Truth is currently residing? In reality, where is truth?
18. Complete the quote: “Let us spend…” Why does Thoreau believe this will help us?
19. What do humans crave?
20. What does Thoreau mean when he says, “I have always been regretting that I was not
as wise as the day I was born?”
21. What does Thoreau’s instinct tell him his head is for?
22. Why does Thoreau leave the woods? (lit book page 255)
23. How can a man achieve success?
24. What FOUR things will happen if we simplify our lives?
25. Write down and then summarize what you feel are the 5 MAIN POINTS of
Thoreau’s essay. What points would you need to mention in order to share Thoreau’s
insights with others?
Handout 5
Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”
Make sure to answer ALL PARTS of the questions!

1. What kind of government is Thoreau most supportive of? What motto does he
‘heartily’ accept?
2. Men can only have this type of government when?
3. The government is equally liable to be what TWO things before the people can act
through it?
1.
2.
4. Thoreau believes this American government is but a ________________.
5. What power does a single man have over the government?
6. What does Thoreau believe governments show?
7. What THREE things does the government NOT do?
1.
2.
3.
8. Thoreau states that the American people could have accomplished even more if what?
9. Why does Thoreau believe that the majority is allowed to rule, even if the majority is
wrong?
10. Finish the quote: “I think that we should be…” what?? (pg. 259)
11. What does Thoreau believe is his only obligation?
12. Why do you think Thoreau relates the story about the clergyman? What is the
importance of that story?
13. Why does Thoreau not feel confined while in the jail?
14. What is really the most dangerous part of Thoreau?
15. Why does Thoreau refuse to support the state? What is his reasoning?
16. What does spending a night in jail do to Thoreau’s perception of his town?
17. Who does Thoreau say he will “cheerfully obey?”
18. What progress does Thoreau believe that America has made?
19. Does Thoreau believe that a democracy is the last possible improvement in America’s
government? Why or why not?
20. What does Thoreau suggest should be the relationship between government and the
individual?
21. Thoreau mentions the Mexican-American War as an example of government acting
against the people’s will. What other examples of unpopular government actions can
you think of? Explain.
22. Do you think Thoreau’s essay is optimistic or pessimistic? Explain.
Handout 6
Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream”
speech, delivered 28 August 1963
I am happy to join with you today in
what will go down in history as the
greatest demonstration for freedom in
the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American,
in whose symbolic shadow we stand
today, signed the Emancipation
Proclamation. This momentous decree
came as a great beacon light of hope to
millions of Negro slaves who had been
seared in the flames of withering
injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak
to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro
still is not free. One hundred years later,
the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled
by the manacles of segregation and the
chains of discrimination. One hundred
years later, the Negro lives on a lonely
island of poverty in the midst of a vast
ocean of material prosperity. One
hundred years later, the Negro is still
languished in the corners of American
society and finds himself an exile in his
own land. And so we've come here
today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of
our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of
Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall
heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would
be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It
is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her
citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has
given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient
funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that
there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've
come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom
and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of
Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing
drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the
time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial
justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the
solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's
children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering
summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating
autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And
those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will
have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be
neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The
whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright
day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold
which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we
must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by
drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on
the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to
degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights
of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us
to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their
presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?"
We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors
of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the
fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the
cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller
ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of
their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot
be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York
believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be
satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.
Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from
areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of
persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans
of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is
redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go
back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern
cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It
is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the
true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and
the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of
brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the
heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis
of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not
be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor
having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right
there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white
boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain
shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be
made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it
together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a
beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to
pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom
together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to
sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every
village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up
that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles,
Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old
Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Handout 7
Allusion
An indirect reference to some piece of knowledge not actually mentioned. Allusions
usually come from a body of information that the author presumes the reader will know.
For example, an author who writes, “She was another Helen,” is alluding to the
proverbial beauty of Helen of Troy.

Anaphora
A literary or oratorical device involving the repetition of a word or phrase at the
beginning of several sentences or clauses, as in the well-known passage from the Old
Testament (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) that begins: For everything there is a season, and a time
for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a
time to pluck up what is planted…

Alliteration
The repetition of the beginning sounds of words, as in “Peter Piper picked a peck of
pickled peppers,” “long-lived,” “short shrift,” and “the fickle finger of fate.”

Metaphor
The comparison of one thing to another without the use of like or as: “A man is but a
weak reed”; “The road was a ribbon of moonlight.” Metaphors are common in literature
and expansive speech.

Allusion
An indirect reference to some piece of knowledge not actually mentioned. Allusions
usually come from a body of information that the author presumes the reader will know.
For example, an author who writes, “She was another Helen,” is alluding to the
proverbial beauty of Helen of Troy.

Anaphora
A literary or oratorical device involving the repetition of a word or phrase at the
beginning of several sentences or clauses, as in the well-known passage from the Old
Testament (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) that begins: For everything there is a season, and a time
for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a
time to pluck up what is planted…

Alliteration
The repetition of the beginning sounds of words, as in “Peter Piper picked a peck of
pickled peppers,” “long-lived,” “short shrift,” and “the fickle finger of fate.”

Metaphor
The comparison of one thing to another without the use of like or as: “A man is but a
weak reed”; “The road was a ribbon of moonlight.” Metaphors are common in literature
and expansive speech.
Handout 8

“I Have a Dream”
1. Using colored pencils, create four categories for your speech. Your categories are:
Alliteration, Allusion, Anaphora (repetition), and Metaphor/Simile/Symbolism. These
categories describe the various writing methods MLK Jr. uses to make his speech
more powerful. Then in the text, mark places where you see these writing devices
being used. For example, use blue to underline metaphors, red to underline allusions
to Christianity and historical founding documents of the United States, etc.

Then answer the following questions. Each answer should be at least 3 sentences:

2. How does an author’s word choice influence a reader’s impression? For example,
what if Martin Luther King, Jr. would have said “I have a vision,” instead of “I have a
dream?” What is the effect on the reader when MLK Jr. says, “I have a dream
today?”

3. Consider that MLK Jr. alludes to “The American Dream.” What is “The American
Dream?” Write a composite definition for this commonly used term.

4. Evaluate the connotation the concept of “The American Dream” has, and explain why
it is appropriate that King uses it in his speech.

5. Now again, how does his word choice relate to his purpose and the type of audience
present for the speech?

King was assassinated for his work in civil rights. A quotation from the Bible on the
tombstone at his gravesite reads, “Behold the dreamer. Let us slay him, and we will see
what will become of his dream.”

6. What do you think has become of King’s dream? In what ways has the dream been
fulfilled? What yet remains to be accomplished?
Handout 9
Compare and Contrast “I Have a Dream”
and “Civil Disobedience”
Now that you have read both Thoreau and MLK’s views on freedom and civil
disobedience, you must write an essay in which you compare and contrast the two in a 5
paragraph essay. Your essay should be 2 pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt
font.

In your introduction, state the similarities and/or dissimilarities both authors
share and which THREE you will be focusing on. This can be everything from
writing methods (alliteration, allusion, anaphora, metaphor), word choice, shared
ideas and shared feelings about freedom, to dissimilar stances on freedom, civil
disobedience, etc.

1. In your first paragraph, state the first similarity/dissimilarity. Use TEXTUAL
EVIDENCE to prove your point.
2. In your second paragraph, state the second similarity/dissimilarity. Use
TEXTUAL EVIDENCE to prove your point.
3. In the third paragraph, state the third similarity/dissimilarity. Use TEXTUAL
EVIDENCE to prove your point.

In your conclusion, restate your introduction. Summarize what you believe to be
the MAIN POINT of your essay. Do not introduce new ideas or go off topic.

We will be working on these essays Wednesday, February 17th and Thursday, February
18th. Your essays are DUE Thursday the 17th. If turned in after this date, you will miss
points for late work.
Handout 10
Robert Frost,
“The Road Not Taken”
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Handout 11
Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”
1. When viewing the two paths in the woods, why do you think Frost might say that he
was “sorry I could not travel both?”
2. Summarize, in about 2-3 sentences, stanza 1 of the poem. What is going on?
3. What might the road beyond the bend represent?
4. Summarize, in about 2-3 sentences, stanza 2 of the poem. What is going on?
5. Why does Frost state that one path had “perhaps the better claim.” What might that
mean?
6. Summarize, in about 2-3 sentences, stanza 3 of the poem. What is going on?
7. Why does Frost state that he doubts if he should ever return to the first path?
8. Summarize, in about 2-3 sentences, stanza 4 of the poem. What is going on?
9. Why will Frost “be telling this with a sigh?” What does that imply about his decision?
10. What THEMES of Transcendentalism do you see in this poem? (List at least 2)
Handout 12
Examples of Transcendental Thought

Transcendenta Examples Explanation

l Theme

Nonconformity

Self and Society

Self-Reliance/ Intuition

Universal Spirit

Importance of Nature/
Direct relationship
between God and
Nature

Handout 13
Transcendental Songs
These are the ones I used in class, there are many others that I thought of but did not
use:

“Drive” by Incubus
“Answer to Yourself” by Soft Pack
“Get up, Stand up” by Bob Marley
“Straight Lines” by Silverchair
“New Soul” by Yael Naim
“Great Escape” by No Kids
Handout 14
Transcendental Test
1. What man started the Transcendental movement?

2. Who was this man greatly influenced by?

3. Why did the man from question #1 start the Transcendental movement in the first
place?

4. Why did these authors name themselves “Transcendentalists?”

5. Transcendental authors believed that you could change society, but first you had to
change what?

6. Name at least three future movements that were influenced by Transcendental ideas:
1.
2.
3.

“Nature” pg. 242
7. If the sun “illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of
the child,” how might we all be able to enjoy and understand Nature?

8. Emerson believes that if we were to find out Nature’s secret, man might “lose his
curiosity by finding out all her perfection.” What does that mean?

9. Emerson believes that in the woods, we return to what two things?

10. “In the tranquil landscape… man beholds…” what? How does this relate to
Transcendentalism?

“Self-Reliance” pg. 245
11. In every work of genius, what do we recognize?

12. Emerson believes that society demands of its citizens one thing. What is that thing?

13. What does Emerson say is ‘easy?’

14. What does Emerson believe makes a great man?

“Walden” pg. 253 and handout
15. Why did Thoreau go to the woods in the first place?
16. What does Thoreau mean when he says, “We do not ride the railroad; it rides upon
us?”

17. What happens when we are “unhurried and wise?”

18. How can a man achieve success?

“Civil Disobedience” pg. 258
19. What THREE things does the government NOT do?
1.
2.
3.

20. Why does Thoreau believe that the majority is allowed to rule, even if the majority is
wrong?

21. What does Thoreau believe is his only obligation?

22. What does Thoreau suggest should be the relationship between government and the
individual?

“I Have a Dream” handout
23. List at least ONE dream that Martin Luther King has for this country:

24. List at least ONE thing that Martin Luther King alludes to in his speech:

25. “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back
marked ‘insufficient funds.’” What does Martin Luther King’s metaphor mean?

26. Where is there an example of anaphora in King’s speech? Write the example.

27. Where is there an example of alliteration in King’s speech? Write the example.

“Road Not Taken” handout
28. Why does Frost state that he doubts if he should ever return to the first path?

29. Why will Frost “be telling this with a sigh?” What does that imply about his decision?

30. What THEMES of Transcendentalism do you see in this poem? (List at least 2)
Handout 15
This Is Your BRAIN on Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism Final Project

We have read and learned about Transcendental themes, authors, and literature. As your
final project for Transcendentalism, you will be creating a book of quotations from the
Transcendental pieces we have read that appeal to you in some way. For each quotation,
you should include an explanation of what the quote means to you. Your booklet must
contain:

 A creative and unique cover
 Table of Contents
 At least 10 Quotes (one quote per page)
 One paragraph (5-7 sentences) explanation PER quote (on a separate but
facing page)—explaining how and why that quote is important to you, why you
chose it, etc.

You may organize your booklet by theme (self-reliance, intuition, Universal Spirit,
nonconformity, simplicity, nature, etc.), or just by quotes that are meaningful to you.
I will show you how I want your booklet to look—DO NOT start making your booklet
until you are sure you understand the format required!!

We will work on this booklet the last week of the term—February 22nd-26th. Your booklet
is DUE Friday the 26th AT THE LATEST!! I will not accept booklets past this date
(unless you have come to talk to me beforehand).
Handout 16

Transcendentalism Final Project Rubric

CATEGORY 100-90 90-80 80-75 75-50
Quotations Provides unique Provides Provides Provides
and examples that unique examples for examples for
Examples display the examples for Transcendentali Transcendentali
characteristics of the sm that are sm that are
Transcendentalis quotations. obvious, though obvious and
m. Quotes are Quotes show somewhat show little
picked based on some student original. effort or
student interest interest and thought to be
and show that the motivation. original.
student read and Student does
carefully chose not seem to
their quotes. understand
assignment.
Explanatio Makes a complete Makes a Makes a Explanations
n of the and detailed complete cursory are brief and
Quotes description of the description of description of incomplete.
examples. Shows the examples, the quotations, Student does
insight and but not shows little not seem to
original thinking. detailed. insight. understand the
requirements of
the assignment.
Cover Creative, original, Somewhat Little creativity Sloppily done,
and shows artistic creative, and originality. with little effort
merit. Accurately shows effort. Shows little or care. Shows
relates to the Relates relation to the no relation to
student’s quotes somewhat to themes of the the themes of
and overall theme the student’s booklet. student’s
of the booklet. themes in the booklet.
booklet.

Possible Extension Activities:
• Students can look through comic books or newspapers provided by the instructor and
identify cartoons that show Transcendental characteristics. Calvin and Hobbes often
have good examples.
• Students can create their own Transcendental cartoons that display their
understanding of Transcendental themes. Go to toondoo.com and have
students create accounts and then design their own cartoons. You can also do
this in class instead of on a computer.
• Students must find examples of Transcendentalism in popular culture. They could do
this as their final project, so instead of finding quotes in the literature for a booklet,
they have to look in songs, TV, movies, etc. and include those quotes. Then they must
explain how their quotes display the themes of Transcendentalism.
• Students could present their own Transcendental songs following your
presentation of songs. Make sure students approve the songs and lyrics with
you first, then they could present their song to the class and discuss how it
applies to Transcendental themes.
• Group these songs into genres and see which genre has more
Transcendental themes: country, pop, rock, alternative, etc. Discuss which
group had the most selections and what the reason might be for the genre with
the most songs.
• Assign students the short novel Seedfolks. Assign one chapter for each student or
groups of students. Each day, a student or group of students must read their chapter
with the class, then discuss the Transcendental themes that are present in the chapter.
• Have a culminating final project where the class discusses the entire novel
and how it is Transcendental. Make posters that advertise the Transcendental
themes in the novel.
• Have students read a novel that explores one of the themes from Transcendentalism.
Their selections can be from nonfiction, photography books, fiction, graphic novels,
poetry, etc. Each student must choose their own book and keep track of
Transcendental themes they encounter while reading in their reading journals.
• Research Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Have students take tests to
identify which intelligence they ascribe to the most: linguistic, kinesthetic,
naturalistic, etc. Based on their area(s) of strength, allow them to pick their final
project. For linguistic learners, it could be an essay. For kinesthetic, an interpretive
dance. For musical, write and perform a song.
• Watch the film Into the Wild (rated R, for nudity and language). Have students take
notes on the authors they hear referenced, as well as any Transcendental themes they
can identify in the film.