Virtual Event: Robert Gross
The Transcendentalists and Their World
in conversation with MEGAN MARSHALL
November 30, 2021
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes ROBERT GROSS—the award-winning, bestselling author of The Minutemen and Their World—for a discussion of his latest book, The Transcendentalists and Their World. He will be joined in conversation by MEGAN MARSHALL, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of The Transcendentalists and Their World on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About The Transcendentalists and Their World
In the year of the nation’s bicentennial, Robert A. Gross published The Minutemen and Their World, a paradigm-shaping study of Concord, Massachusetts, during the American Revolution. It won the prestigious Bancroft Prize and became a perennial bestseller. Forty years later, in this highly anticipated work, Gross returns to Concord and explores the meaning of an equally crucial moment in the American story: the rise of Transcendentalism.
The Transcendentalists and Their World offers a fresh view of the thinkers whose outsize impact on philosophy and literature would spread from tiny Concord to all corners of the earth. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcotts called this New England town home, and Thoreau drew on its life extensively in his classic Walden. But Concord from the 1820s through the 1840s was no pastoral place fit for poets and philosophers.
The Transcendentalists and their neighbors lived through a transformative epoch of American life. A place of two thousand–plus souls in the antebellum era, Concord was a community in ferment, whose small, ordered society founded by Puritans and defended by Minutemen was dramatically unsettled through the expansive forces of capitalism and democracy and tightly integrated into the wider world. These changes challenged a world of inherited institutions and involuntary associations with 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.
The Transcendentalists and Their World is both an intimate journey into the life of a community and a searching cultural study of major American writers as they plumbed the depths of the universe for spiritual truths and surveyed the rapidly changing contours of their own neighborhoods. It shows us familiar figures in American literature alongside their neighbors at every level of the social order, and it reveals how this common life in Concord entered powerfully into their works. No American community of the nineteenth century has been recovered so richly and with so acute an awareness of its place in the larger American story.
Praise for The Transcendentalists and Their World
"This book is a Hope Diamond of history-writing, a brilliant successor to that little gem, The Minutemen and Their World. Although much larger and richer, this story of Concord in the age of Emerson and Thoreau has the same social and cultural wholeness, the same easy, readable prose, and the same reverberating significance as the earlier book. Well worth waiting for, it is surely the most complete history of an early American town ever written." —Gordon S. Wood, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution
"Concord, Massachusetts was the cultural epicenter of nineteenth-century America, an extraordinarily rich breeding ground of philosophy and literature. No one knows Concord as well as Robert A. Gross. In this ground-breaking, wonderfully researched book, Gross limns the web of personal connections and cultural movements that produced some of America’s greatest writings." —David S. Reynolds, author of Walt Whitman's America
"Robert Gross’s long-awaited magnum opus, packed with insight and exhaustively researched, is essential reading for all readers with a serious interest in Emerson, Thoreau, and the history of New England Transcendentalism." —Lawrence Buell, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature Emeritus at Harvard University
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