Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

Post  Fionaaa :) on Wed May 13, 2009 2:51 am

Ditto joyce :] I’ll try to focus on other points. Hopefully this won’t overlap with anyone’s, but if it does, cool, we think alike Wink

The core transcendentalist element in Moby Dick is the search for truth. The textbook says that “transcendentalism is the view that the basic truths of the universe lie beyond the knowledge we obtain from our senses.” The white whale is a sort of phantom figure to Captain Ahab. He is bewildered by it and hopes to come to an understanding after coming in contact with it and ultimately killing it. The whale, therefore, represents the truth that is lying beyond the knowledge Ahab obtains from his senses. The whale, in a sense, is a symbol for the Universal Being. Captain Ahab has never taken this English course; he does not understand that there is an essence that permeates through all of life. He doesn’t know that it is absolutely futile trying to capture and classify it because the Universal Being simply is. It is a power that “never reasons, never proves, it simply perceives…” How can you possibly classify the power that drives all of life? The transcendentalists believed that nature reflected the irrationality of the inner world of human beings. Herman Melville understood this and ingeniously encoded it into the novel. The stormy weather, the murderous sharks, and seemingly “malicious” and “violent” behavior of the whale are actually all reflections of what is going on in Ahab’s mind. In a sense, Ahab’s own mind is killing him. He is thinking these iniquitous thoughts, which as a result will manifest in nature. These manifestations are greatly hindering his goals. If we look at it in another way, Ahab is going against the Universal Being (trying to kill the whale, even though it had nigh bad intentions, simply trying to survive…) which causes nature to go against him. He dies, ultimately ending a pointless and tragic life. Ok back to the topic of the inner world of human beings. Since nature and human nature are reflections of each other, maybe Captain Ahab is chasing the whale because he wants to understand himself. This seems like a plausible hypothesis – the world inside Ahab is a dark and murky place where clarity and logic are banished. Perhaps he wants to understand the true motive (not his missing leg) for this relentless chase for vengeance. What is driving him forward? He probably believes that the answer will be revealed when he comes face to face with the whale. Tragically, he dies before finding out. What is Melville trying to say with is death? That humans will never be able to understand themselves? Perhaps.
Anyway, Melville is transcendentalist in that he hints heavily on the Universal Being and the connection between the inner world of humans and nature.
There are also some other points that are more obvious – such as the determination and individualism of Captain Ahab, which represents unlimited human potential.

The transcendentalist elements in The Scarlet Letter are pretty central to the book. The unlimited potential of Hester – her ability to surpass the obstacles in her way and amazingly be accepted back into society, is probably the most obvious. Hester’s individualism is heavily emphasized in The Scarlet Letter. Another example is the connection between human and nature – when Hester and Pearl are in the forest, the forest seems be a reflection of their respective inner beings. This just proves how influential transcendentalist elements were – it even manifested in the master work of the master of ANTI-transcendentalism. Perhaps this rings the truth of its values.

As I mentioned above, Captain Ahab’s death probably represents Melville’s view that we may never understand human nature. Also, Melville probably uses the failure to catch and harpoon the white whale to suggest that we cannot live life searching for the answer to the Spirit or we will end up like Ahab. He is saying that there is no point trying to understand the Spirit, because in the end, it did not help Ahab transcend his limitations. Ahab’s mind was partially corrupted (by insanity, I suppose?), so this ultimately hindered his desire to kill the whale (because he almost gives up in the end). The anti-transcendentalists emphasized the “mixture of good and evil in even the loftiest of human motives.” In Captain Ahab, we see the core element of transcendentalism (trying to transcend his limitations, believing in the Self), but we also see an irrational desire to go against nature (the Spirit). Strange how they are complete opposites, yet they were able to coexist. Is this Melville’s message to us saying that there will always be darkness accompanying transcendentalism?
avatar
Fionaaa :)

Posts : 47
Join date : 2009-05-11

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Transcendentalism vs. Anti-Transcendentalism

Post  Ajk on Wed May 13, 2009 9:54 pm

Fionaaa Smile wrote:Ditto joyce :] I’ll try to focus on other points. Hopefully this won’t overlap with anyone’s, but if it does, cool, we think alike Wink

The core transcendentalist element in Moby Dick is the search for truth. Excellent, Fiona, yes this is it. The textbook says that “transcendentalism is the view that the basic truths of the universe lie beyond the knowledge we obtain from our senses.” The white whale is a sort of phantom figure to Captain Ahab. He is bewildered by it and hopes to come to an understanding after coming in contact with it and ultimately killing it. The whale, therefore, represents the truth that is lying beyond the knowledge Ahab obtains from his senses. The whale, in a sense, is a symbol for the Universal Being. Captain Ahab has never taken this English course; he does not understand that there is an essence that permeates through all of life. He doesn’t know that it is absolutely futile trying to capture and classify it because the Universal Being simply is. It is a power that “never reasons, never proves, it simply perceives…” How can you possibly classify the power that drives all of life? The transcendentalists believed that nature reflected the irrationality of the inner world of human beings. Herman Melville understood this and ingeniously encoded it into the novel. The stormy weather, the murderous sharks, and seemingly “malicious” and “violent” behavior of the whale are actually all reflections of what is going on in Ahab’s mind. In a sense, Ahab’s own mind is killing him. Fiona, this is the essence of what we've been discussing and the teaching contained within this unit, and you reflect mastery here of this concept. Excellent distinction and application and mastery of this concept to then analyze and interpret Melvile's symbolism behind Moby Dick with the white whale. Really strong synthesizing and applying of a new concept/tool. As another note: Melville's White Whale in Moby Dick is considered one of American Literature's most beloved, and most analyzed single symbol. So it's entirely relevant that you have identified this and are interpreting this exact symbol as a means of answering the question of Melville's Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism.

He is thinking these iniquitous thoughts, which as a result will manifest in nature. Very pure application of this concept, thoughts/beliefs creating reality. These manifestations are greatly hindering his goals. If we look at it in another way, Ahab is going against the Universal Being (trying to kill the whale, even though it had nigh bad intentions, simply trying to survive…) which causes nature to go against him. Hence, his creation of the conflict with nature, not that nature is some inherently big bad force that humans have to, but ultimately can't, overcome. Isn't this causing reconsideration of all the times you've encoutnered this Man vs. Nature conflict before, as middle school students of literature? You know, because this is one of the oldest, and most used conflicts, particularly in kids and young adults' fiction, as well as adventure fiction. He dies, ultimately ending a pointless and tragic life.

Ok back to the topic of the inner world of human beings. Since nature and human nature are reflections of each other, maybe Captain Ahab is chasing the whale because he wants to understand himself. Perfectly on target interpretation, yes. Melville portrays, as you've stated in the beginning of your discussion, Ahab's thirst for truth. This seems like a plausible hypothesis – the world inside Ahab is a dark and murky place where clarity and logic are banished. Perhaps he wants to understand the true motive (not his missing leg) for this relentless chase for vengeance. What is driving him forward? He probably believes that the answer will be revealed when he comes face to face with the whale. Tragically, he dies before finding out. What is Melville trying to say with is death? That humans will never be able to understand themselves? Perhaps.
Anyway, Melville is transcendentalist in that he hints heavily on the Universal Being and the connection between the inner world of humans and nature. absolutely, girl. yes.There are also some other points that are more obvious – such as the determination and individualism of Captain Ahab, which represents unlimited human potential. Right, the easier ones.

The transcendentalist elements in The Scarlet Letter are pretty central to the book. The unlimited potential of Hester – her ability to surpass the obstacles in her way and amazingly be accepted back into society, is probably the most obvious. Hester’s individualism is heavily emphasized in The Scarlet Letter. Another example is the connection between human and nature – when Hester and Pearl are in the forest, the forest seems be a reflection of their respective inner beings. This just proves how influential transcendentalist elements were – it even manifested in the master work of the master of ANTI-transcendentalism. Perhaps this rings the truth of its values.

As I mentioned above, Captain Ahab’s death probably represents Melville’s view that we may never understand human nature. Good, Fiona, this is a key part of the rhetoric surrounding Melville. Also, Melville probably uses the failure to catch and harpoon the white whale to suggest that we cannot live life searching for the answer to the Spirit or we will end up like Ahab. More solid interpreting, because yes, this was indeed one of the criticisms he had of the Transcendentalists. He is saying that there is no point trying to understand the Spirit, because in the end, it did not help Ahab transcend his limitations. And isn't this a common perspective of those who live life more in the physical realm, or at least do not believe in spending time as Emerson and Thoreau did? So that it is easy to see where this criticism comes from. Ahab’s mind was partially corrupted (by insanity, I suppose?), so this ultimately hindered his desire to kill the whale (because he almost gives up in the end). The anti-transcendentalists emphasized the “mixture of good and evil in even the loftiest of human motives.” In Captain Ahab, we see the core element of transcendentalism (trying to transcend his limitations, believing in the Self), but we also see an irrational desire to go against nature (the Spirit). Strange how they are complete opposites, yet they were able to coexist. Is this Melville’s message to us saying that there will always be darkness accompanying transcendentalism?
Perhaps, yes. What is really meaningful to me is your diction in "irrational desire to go against nature." Could Melville, then therefore, been like an inside out Transcendentalist, and not even known it?

_________________
please see our forum at www.transparency.phpbb9.com/ and
[url]http:transparenteyeballers.blogspot.com[/url][/url]
avatar
Ajk
Admin

Posts : 52
Join date : 2009-05-07

View user profile http://transparency.phpbb9.com; www.transparenteyeballers.blogsp

Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum