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Symbolism in Poe and Emerson

The purpose of this research is to examine symbolism in "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe in connection with transcendentalism as articulated by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The plan of the research will be to set forth a definition of transcendentalism and then to discuss how imagery in Poe's story can be discussed in relationship to Emersonian transcendentalism.

Transcendentalism is the name given to a personalist metaphysics associated with the so-called Concord School of Philosophy, which articulated a recognition in man of the capacity of knowing truth intuitively, or of attaining knowledge transcending the reach of the senses. In the transcendentalist view, there are certain laws of religion and metaphysics in the spiritual world that can be known even though not directly experienced. Because the mind makes intuitions, leaping from the material to the spiritual world, observation is a means by which one can partake of the universe. Transcendentalist intuition can take a variety of forms. For example, in the essay "Nature," Emerson speaks of intuition in terms of beauty and emotion that only the natural world can inspire. Indeed, Nature is said to symbolize the human spirit (Emerson, "Nature" 534). Transcendentalist thought in Emerson's work entails a natural religious morality, wherein a moral order in general and personal habits of self-control in particular are accepted as a matter of course. In the poem "Each and All," the cosmic order is found through the path of nature: Initially seeking moral truth and dismissing beauty, the poet has an epiphany that allows him to reclaim as truth the wondrous beauty of the natural world, coming to realize that "nothing is fair or good alone" and that truth is implicit in something as simple yet grand as the prettiness of trees and sky (2-3).

According to Schorer, et al., Emerson added Romanticism to Puritanism to arrive at Transcendentalism, noting that "through everything he ...

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