Pages from Jeremy’s Journal

March 13, 2006
After visiting the Alcott’s place

Despite their shortcomings, it shows what a family can be, in its individual but mutually supportive personalities and interests. Full of paintings and wood burnings, the most lasting forms of creativity, each containing memories and reflections of the lives lived there; here a drawing of Louisa May as the villain in boots, and there the boots themselves. It is really very impressive how cultured the girls were, who knew Dickens and Shakespeare, poetry and theater, art and music; far more knowledgeable than I was at that age. It must have been a very entertaining and aesthetically pleasing place to visit, and still is. More spacious then the other places we have seen on this trip, more windows and sunlight; uplifting, as Bronson Alcott intended it to be.



“Fredrick Douglass and Transcendentalism”

Douglass’s slave narrative tells the story of a man who had to realize his own worth, his own equality with other men, in the face of tremendous opposition. One of the most striking parts is where he relates how he came to realize the immense importance of literacy to freedom, and the steps that he was willing to take to procure it, which should make one value one’s own much more readily available opportunities for education. This is a great testimony to Transcendentalist self-reliance. What makes it all the more impressive is that Douglass attained his intellectual as well as personal freedom without the luxuries available to his contemporaries, without the benefit of a Transcendentalist Club with which to converse on profound subjects and receive support for his convictions. Douglass had to grab every opportunity available to him in order to assert his freedom. This sometimes meant asserting his freedom through the bare and simple fact of his superior physical strength, as in the case of his confrontation with Mr. Covey. His story is a simple narrative of lived experience, unadorned with speculation of the more conceptual variety, making it all the more poignant and impressive when compared to some of the castles in the sky being built at the time.  He discovered and asserted his right to freedom with an authentic self-reliance.



“On Clarence King and ‘Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada’”

What is so attractive about Clarence King’s descriptions of landscape in Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada is how he is able to combine his extensive knowledge of geology and scientific vocabulary with a very colorful descriptive ability and an artist’s attention to detail. His description of how natural processes had over millennia created the mountains through which he was wandering, through all the action of ages of glacial freeze and volcanic inferno, have a dramatic force. Reading his work, I picked up on the fact that he had an artistic background even before finding out that he was part of a group of “American pre-Raphaelites” while at Yale, because of how he is able to verbally paint a picture with the same attention to matters of form and color that concern a painter. By reading his description of the landscape, one can mentally recreate the scene as it may have come out on a canvas. Here is some of the colorful vocabulary one can find in Mountaineering…: “Brown foot-hills…a broad arabesque surface of colors…miles of orange-colored flowers, cloudings of green and white, reaches of violet…pale bluish-pearl tones…belts of bright emerald green…a pale, beryl sky…dusky foot-hills rose over the plain with a coppery gold tone…The snow burned for a moment in the violet sky, and at last went out.”



Take a look at photographs from Jeremy’s camera (one with a poem!).

Jeremy Ryan is an English major at Shepherd University.


“American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide” was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit “About This Site.” © 2003 Linda Tate.