11th Grade Honors English: Unit 2
Romanticism and
Shifting Views of Human Nature

In our second unit, we tackle some of the most the fundamental questions regarding human life.  When we strip away trappings of civilization, what will we find at the basement of human nature?  We will examine two dominant schools of thought under the umbrella of the Romantic movement in America during the 19th century: a true time of American genius.  We will explore the Transcendental notions of limitless human agency with the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, and explore the echoes of this belief in the writings of Walt Whitman as well as their impact on the environmental movement.  


We will then contrast this optimistic attitude with the anti-transcendentalists responding to these ideas.  Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Scarlet Letter) paint a very different picture of human life: a life haunted by history, pessimism, and an indifferent universe.


What can we conclude about how these two views of life affect how we think and live in the world?   

"Songs of Ourselves"
The Walt Whitman Project