Virtual Event: Robert Gross


The Transcendentalists and Their World

in conversation with MEGAN MARSHALL


November 30, 2021
7:00 PM ET


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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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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

Megan Marshall
Megan Marshall

Megan Marshall

Megan Marshall is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, The Peabody Sisters, and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast.  In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, her work has been awarded the Francis Parkman Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award in Nonfiction (twice) and the BIO Award, the highest honor given by the Biographers International Organization to a writer who has advanced the art and craft of biography. A past president of the Society of American Historians, Marshall is the Charles Wesley Emerson Professor at Emerson College where she teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program.  Her new book of essays, After Lives: A Biographer’s Memoir, will be published in February 2025.

Photo Credit: Sarah Putnam

Robert Gross
Robert Gross

Robert Gross

Robert A. Gross is the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Professor of Early American History Emeritus at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of The Minutemen and Their World (1976), winner of the Bancroft Prize, and of Books and Libraries in Thoreau’s Concord (1988); he edited In Debt to Shays: The Bicentennial of an Agrarian Rebellion (1993) and with Mary Kelley, is coeditor of An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790–1840 (2010). A former assistant editor of Newsweek, he has written for such periodicals as Esquire, Harper’s, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times, and his essays have appeared in The American Scholar, New England Quarterly, Raritan, and Yale Review. He has taught, among other places, at Amherst College, Brandeis University, Brown University, and the College of William and Mary.


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" and "2021 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

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