Examples Of Transcendentalism In Dead Poets Society

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Transcendentalism on the Screen: Dead Poets Society

“O’ Captain my Captain,” is a line almost all can recognize after watching the movie Dead Poets Society. Very few, however, would see this quote as a reference to Whitman and his transcendental writings. Transcendentalism was a social and philosophical movement that developed in 1830s New England, with Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman as the main writers of this time. This famous line is only one example of these writer’s works of transcendentalism throughout the film. Emerson’s main idea portrayed in Dead Poets Society was non-conformity. One example of non-conformity in this film was Mr. Keating’s teaching strategy, given the fact that it was extremely different …show more content…

Whitman was more intimate and exposed in regards to the body and soul with his writing, so much that his poems were thought to be disgusting by old English readers. Mr. Keating taught a poetry class and frequently incorporated Whitman into his lessons. Mr. Keating made his students rip up their poetry books’ introduction because he believed that poetry couldn’t be interpreted through a graph of ‘greatness’ but rather through emotions and feeling, stating, “We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion...poetry, beauty,romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” Soon after and from memory Mr. Keating recites O Me! O Life!, encouraging the boys to find their ‘verse’ or passion: “... O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer:That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” When Todd is afraid to speak in class, he quotes Song of Myself: “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” and makes Todd ‘yawp’ in order to gather confidence to create a poem in front of the class. Mr. Keating wanted Todd and all his other students to celebrate themselves, a main theme of Whitman’s

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