World Revolutions

Michael Ziser

in The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195331035
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 World Revolutions

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  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies
  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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The nineteenth century was a period of revolutions in Europe and America. This article explains how Transcendentalism responded to the revolutions. The article discusses Transcendentalism as movement in the wake of three major revolutions in the period—The American, Haiti, and French Revolutions. Most of the Transcendentalists were well acquainted with the revolutions at the initial stage itself, and this was seen in their thoughts and writings. For the Transcendentalists Haiti was a touchstone for lingering questions about the justice of the French Revolution and the proper tactics of the U.S. abolitionist movement. The article states that the French Revolution played a relatively small role in the imaginations of the Transcendentalists despite its enormous significance to European and world history. The reasons for this were various, including the historical and cultural distance of antebellum New England from eighteenth-century France.

Keywords: American Revolution; French Revolution; Haiti Revolution; abolitionism; antislavery

Article.  6775 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies ; Literary Studies (19th Century)

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