Event—Scholarly Seminars

Clemens Spahr, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz


Pre-Philosophical Moments: American Transcendentalism, Education, and the Social Reproduction of Privilege, Clemens Spahr

This talk takes its cue from Stanley Cavell’s observation that Transcendentalism occurred in a “pre-philosophical moment” when “philosophy and literature and theology (and politics and economics) had not isolated themselves out from one another but when these divorcements could be felt as imminent, for better or worse” (Senses of Walden xiii-xiv). This paper will examine the Transcendentalists’ reform efforts in this particular historical moment. More particularly, it will focus on their educational reform efforts, which sought to reintegrate the fields of an increasingly differentiated modernity. Confronted with the task of how to project their educational practice into comprehensive reform projects, the Transcendentalists developed a complex, and sometimes contradictory, understanding of how social practice was linked to the reproduction of socioeconomic privilege.