Transcendentalism 101: A Master Class

Transcendentalism 101:
A Master Class

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Our introduction to Transcendentalism will begin with the religious, philosophical, and literary background of a defining American movement. We will discuss all the high points of the movement, from the publication of Emerson’s Nature in 1836 through the publication of Thoreau’s Walden in 1854.

Our specialist, Mark Gallagher is one of a new generation of Transcendentalist scholars and he will show us how the historically Emerson-centric movement could be defined as a female movement and he will also cover the abolitionist activities of the Transcendentalists.

During the pandemic, in our isolation and return to nature, many people have expressed an interest in reading Walden and having a deeper understanding of the movement past and present. We hope you will join us for a lively lecture and discussion.


Thursday, March 24

10:30 a.m. – 12 noon PDT

The safety and comfort of your home.



Mark Gallagher is a lecturer in the UCLA English Department, where he received his Ph.D. in English in 2021. He also teaches in the Rhetorical Arts program at Loyola Marymount University. His primary research interests are in nineteenth-century American literature, with a focus on Transcendentalism, religion and literature, and book history and print culture. His writing has appeared in several academic journals and books. His current book project examines the “affective transcendentalisms” of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller.

We recommend reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau and will send excerpts from Now Comes Smooth Sailing by Andrew Launer before the event. IT IS NOT REQUIRED TO READ IN ORDER TO ATTEND.


The world is never done catching up with Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), the author of Walden, “Civil Disobedience,” and other classics. A prophet of environmentalism and vegetarianism, an abolitionist, and a critic of materialism and technology, Thoreau even seems to have anticipated a world of social distancing in his famous experiment at Walden Pond. In Now Comes Good Sailing, twenty-seven of today’s leading writers offer wide-ranging original pieces exploring how Thoreau has influenced and inspired them ― and why he matters more than ever in an age of climate, racial, and technological reckoning.

Here, Lauren Groff retreats from the COVID-19 pandemic to a rural house and writing hut, where, unable to write, she rereads Walden; Pico Iyer describes how Thoreau provided him with an unlikely guidebook to Japan; Gerald Early examines Walden and the Black quest for nature; Rafia Zakaria reflects on solitude, from Thoreau’s Concord to her native Pakistan; Mona Simpson follows in Thoreau’s footsteps at Maine’s Mount Katahdin; Jennifer Finney Boylan reads Thoreau in relation to her experience of coming out as a trans woman; Adam Gopnik traces Thoreau’s influence on the New Yorker editor E. B. White and his book Charlotte’s Web; and there’s much more.

The result is a lively and compelling collection that richly demonstrates the countless ways Thoreau continues to move, challenge, and provoke readers today.


Critical of 19th-century America’s booming commercialism and industrialism, Henry David Thoreau moved to a small cabin in the woods of Concord, Massachusetts in 1845. Walden, the account of his stay near Walden Pond, conveys at once a naturalist’s wonder at the commonplace and a transcendentalist’s yearning for spiritual truth and self-reliance. But Thoreau’s embrace of solitude and simplicity did not entail a withdrawal from social and political matters. Civil Disobedience, also included in this volume, expresses his antislavery and antiwar sentiments, and has influenced resistance movements worldwide. Both give rewarding insight into a free-minded, principled and idiosyncratic life.


Andrew Blauner is the founder of Blauner Books Literary Agency, and Editor of the anthologies: Coach, Brothers, Central Park, Our Boston, The Good Book, In their Lives, The Peanut Papers, and Now Comes Good Sailing. He is co-editor of For the Love of Baseball. A graduate of Collegiate School, Brown University, and the Columbia Business School, he is a member of PEN American Center and the National Book Critics


Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1817. He graduated from Harvard in 1837, the same year he began his lifelong Journal. Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau became a key member of the Transcendentalist movement that included Margaret Fuller and Bronson Alcott. The Transcendentalists’ faith in nature was tested by Thoreau between 1845 and 1847 when he lived for twenty-six months in a homemade hut at Walden Pond. While living at Walden, Thoreau worked on the two books published during his lifetime: Walden (1854) and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849). Several of his other works, including The Maine Woods, Cape Cod, and Excursions, were published posthumously. Thoreau died in Concord, at the age of forty-four, in 1862.