"My nonsense is only their own in motley" : Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ware Jr., and the "nature" of christian character" Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/h702qb263

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  • Recent changes in the historiography of American Transcendentalism have inspired a reappraisal of the relationship between the Transcendentalist movement in New England and the pietistic wing of the Unitarian church. This thesis explores this reappraisal through a close reading of selected writings by Henry Ware Jr. in juxtaposition to the more familiar strains of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Divinity School Address and other Transcendentalist texts of the late 1830's and early 1840's. In opposition to the view that American Transcendentalism is an imported form of German Romanticism, the thesis argues that both Emerson and Ware represent a response on the part of rational religious liberalism to the emotional enthusiasm of the Evangelical movement, and that the primary inspiration for Emerson's philosophy came from his own mentor in the Unitarian ministry. Henry Ware Jr. was the senior minister of the Second Church in Boston from 1817-1830. Emerson was called to that same congregation in 1829 to serve as Ware's assistant and eventual successor. From 1830 to 1842 Ware was "Professor of Pulpit Eloquence and the Pastoral Care" at the Harvard Divinity School. His Hints on Extemporaneous Preaching was an influential handbook of homiletics. His devotional manual On the Formation of the Christian Character went through fifteen editions. His sermon "The Personality of the Deity" has traditionally been perceived as a response to Emerson's controversial 1838 address, which Emerson delivered at the height of Ware's tenure at the Divinity School, and which is often depicted as the opening salvo of the so-called "Transcendentalist Controversy." Chapter One of the thesis summarizes the changes in the historiography of American Transcendentalism. Chapter Two relates Ware's "Formation of Christian Character" to the broader Unitarian understanding of Self-Culture, which the Transcendentalists also shared. Chapter Three compares Ware's "Hints" to the Emersonian ideal of preaching as proclaimed in the Divinity School Address. Chapter Four addresses the issue of the "Personality of the Deity" in relation to Emerson's notion of an "Over-Soul." The final chapter offers some personal observations about the nature of history and the reappraisal of the relationship between Unitarianism and Transcendentalism.
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