ISR News & Events

The Transcendentalists And Their World

September 27, 2023 @ 1:00 pm – 4:45 pm
Lewis-Birkhead Lecture Hall in the Armstrong Browning Library

Between the 1820s and the 1840s, New England gave rise to the Transcendentalist movement, which in many ways foreshadows the idealism and the activism of the 1960s, with its mysticism and political radicalism, its bold new visions of the role of women and the definitions of community. Such legendary figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcotts in various ways spread their influence around the world. In the words of distinguished scholar Robert Gross, such new visions placed a “new premium on autonomy and choice. They exposed people to cosmopolitan currents of thought and endowed them with unparalleled opportunities. They fostered uncertainties, raised new hopes, stirred dreams of perfection, and created an audience for new ideas of individual freedom and democratic equality deeply resonant today.”

Our discussion grows directly out of Robert Gross’s much-lauded recent book The Transcendentalists and Their World, which has been described as “An astonishing feat,” “a magnum opus of scholarly research,” and “A magisterial, sprawling portrait of the corners of 19th-century America that fostered a revolution of thinking about individualism and democracy.”


Chair: Philip Jenkins, Baylor University

1:00 – 2:15 pm: Andrea Turpin, Baylor University,
“Utopias and Women’s Education in the Nineteenth Century.”

2:30 – 3:45 pm: A Conversation with Robert Gross

4:00 – 4:45 pm: General Discussion: “Why The Transcendentalists Still Matter Today”

About The Speakers

Robert A. Gross is the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Professor of Early American History Emeritus at the University of Connecticut. His books include The Minutemen and Their World (Hill and Wang, 1976: revised edition, 2022); and The Transcendentalists and Their World (Farrar Straus Giroux 2021).

Philip Jenkins is a Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, where he serves in the Institute for Studies of Religion. His most recent book is He Will Save You from the Deadly Pestilence: The Many Lives of Psalm 91 (Oxford University Press, 2023).

Andrea Turpin, Associate Professor of History, and Graduate Program Director, Baylor University. She is the author of A New Moral Vision: Gender, Religion, and the Changing Purposes of American Higher Education, 1837-1917 (Cornell University Press, 2016).