Article

Manifest Destiny and the Question of the Moral Absolute

Lawrence Buell

in The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195331035
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195331035.013.0013

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Manifest Destiny and the Question of the Moral Absolute

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This article seeks to comprehend the contradictions inherent in the thinking of the Transcendentalists. The most particular concern here is to make sense of the paradox of Transcendentalism's strong antiestablishment tendencies as against the signs of its complicity with American expansionism. The article critically examines the stand of Transcendentalists according to new phenomena of the world. It explains the concept of “English race” and different opinions of different people about it. It also talks about the Transcendentalists' vacillations between dissent from and acquiescence to the nineteenth-century national, political, and ideological status quo as the movement evolved. Emerson, Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, and William Henry Channing are criticized for their stand on the concept of “west”. Transcendentalists have been accused of precipitating the climate of moralistic extremism in American society.

Keywords: national destiny; moral absolute; American Civilization; multiracial vision; environmentalism

Article.  7266 words. 

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

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