WebQuest: Transcendentalism: Observing the World Around Us
Overview: In this WebQuest, you will learn about the ways in which Ralph Waldo Emerson establishes and Henry David Thoreau reflects the Transcendentalist emphasis on nature. Together, the two initiated a long literary tradition of nature writing. Here you can see the growing emphasis on the American landscape and setting as an important focus for American writing.
1: Learn about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s approach to the intellectual journey.
2: Learn about the life and work of Henry David Thoreau.
Step 3: Learn about the unique relationship between Emerson and Thoreau.
Read the following Thoreau excerpts in The Norton Book of Nature Writing: excerpt from A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (170-172); “Walking” (180-205); excerpt from The Maine Woods (205-211); and excerpt from Journals (211-220). Read also Thoreau’s essay, “A Winter Walk.”
As always, at least one of your journal entries this week should be in response to the WebQuest. Here are some possible prompts to get you started on that task (but you aren’t limited to these starting points!).
Journal Prompt #1: Emerson’s writings raise the questions: “What is authority?” and “What defines truth?” Drawing from the Emerson journal excerpts, from the essay “Nature,” and/or “The American Scholar,” summarize your understanding of Emerson’s answers to these two questions.
Journal Prompt #2: Thoreau’s writings also try to answer the questions: “What is authority?” and “What defines truth?” Drawing from the Thoreau journal excerpts, from any of the Thoreau readings in The Norton Book of Nature Writing, and/or from “A Winter Walk,” summarize your understanding of Thoreau’s answers to the two questions.
Question (if you choose to write
about Thoreau as a “disciple” of Emerson for the March 27 essay)
As always, be sure to include resources from the WebQuest (you’ll want to cite at least one of the pieces on nature writing in Step 1). See the Essay Guidelines for more detail about research, sources, length requirements, and documentation. Essay due to Dr. Tate via email by March 27 at 3:00 p.m.
“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.