Review for the Scenarios

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Emerson and Thoreau review for the Scenarios

Objective: to examine excerpts from the essays of Emerson and Thoreau, and apply their teachings to current issues &/or hypothetical or potential scenarios

Essential Question (EQ): What is beauty? Relevance to Emerson: since Emerson wrote extensively on nature and could easily be considered among the first environmentalists, and is considered the Father of the American Renaissance, spring is a good time to read excerpts of his works and to experience the beauties of Nature as this season is celebrated as a rebirth or renaissance of life, human and natural!

Included in this plan will be selections from “Self-Reliance,” Emerson; Transcendentalism and Romanticism (reference texts), and Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)


Transcendentalism: philosophy based on the belief in a higher reality than can be found through a human’s senses or experiences. Some things exist beyond the senses that an individual could know intuitively. There is a greater power in the universe, and it exists to unify individual souls. This “over-soul” exists in everything. For our purposes, we’re going to go to the root of this philosophy and refer to it as the ‘unity of all living things.’ (we are not to contest it, but simply to understand it)

Romanticism: celebrated self-examination, individualism, and the beauty of both nature and humankind. Romantics believed in a direct correspondence between the universe and the soul. Intuition, rather than reason, was looked upon as the highest human quality.


  • Intuition as primary wisdom (Emerson)

* Conformity v nonconformity (Emerson and Thoreau)

* To bear witness (Quaker belief and practice, the basis for Civil Disobedience)

* “Everything is connected.” The Story of Stuff, by Annie Leonard


  • Wave Hill (2007): reconstruction of Thoreau’s cabin in Walden Pond and his journals documenting scientific observations and reflections of flora and fauna, insects and wildlife

  • A journal was opened each day to correspond with the entry he made in the 1800s. For example, if you went to visit the cabin on August 21, 2007 (as I did), the journal was open to August 21, 18….and you saw exactly what he wrote that day approximately 175 years prior.

First Task: brainstorm examples of the following and write them on the board:




In the essay entitled, “Self-Reliance,” Emerson says: Self-reliance is a kind of aversion to conformity. Conformity loves not realities and creators, but names and customs. Who so would be a man must be a nonconformist. ..Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind…To be great is to be misunderstood (American Experience 369).

With a partner, write down examples in your own lives that would reflect the modern day version of what Emerson means by names and customs that people may conform to or copy:

And write down what you think Emerson means when he says, “To be great is to be misunderstood.” Provide some historical examples, i.e. great men and women in science and politics, government and art.

How can the above paraphrase of Emerson’s thoughts on Self-Reliance be applied to our lives? How can it be misconstrued and used inappropriately? Emerson’s thoughts seemed to be pure and wholesome and natural; however, politically, i.e., over questions like slavery or war or the Native American ‘situation,’ conformity v nonconformity can spark heated debates. Provide examples. Use the issues of his day and/or brainstorm current issues.

Current issues:

Governor Christie backing out of Common Core



PARCC testing:



College costs and debt and un/employment possibilities:



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