This piece, “Divining Very: Reconciling Christian and Transcendentalist Philosophies in the Poetry of Jones Very,” combines literary analysis, scholarly research, and seminar discourse to argue that, contrary to popular critical opinion, Transcendentalist and Christian philosophies are not mutually exclusive. In his article, "Nature as Concept and Technique in the Poetry of Jones Very," Anthony Herbold identifies a seemingly blatant contradiction in the poetry of Jones Very--at once deeply reverent and undeniably Christian, the next a devotion to the secular nature, without any apparent conversation between the two modes. Herbold argues that this is evidence of a multiplicity of Verys--that there was a wholly secular and a wholly sacred Very, and never was one cognizant of the other. But Herbold wrongly assumes, as many critics do, that Very must be either a Christian or a Transcendentalist. The Transcendentalist movement was one founded on the principles of institutional reform. Naturally, this created tension between movement and the institutions it targeted--chief among them were the rigid religious sects that had abandoned their true purpose in favor of empty tradition and blind faith. Perhaps Christian leaders, feeling this threat, considered Transcendentalism to be an antagonistic philosophy, but in truth, what the movement sought was reform, with at least a considered and deliberate application of one's faith. On the moral sentiment, Emerson states in his "Divinity School Address" that: "This sentiment lies at the foundation of society, and successively creates all forms of worship. The principle of veneration never dies out." It is evident throughout the Transcendentalist texts that the men and women of the movement were constantly grappling with spirituality in pursuit of Truth, which was the cornerstone of their philosophy--one which often challenged, sometimes even rejected, but never outright precluded Christian philosophy to that end. The juxtaposition of religious and natural language and imagery in Very's poetry suggests that he may have found that elusive middle ground. Using the poetry and essays of Jones Very as a bridging of the two philosophies, this research seeks to answer the challenge inadvertently posed by Herbold to argue that Transcendentalism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, in certain instances, can be found to reinforce each other.

Note on the Author

Kirsten Ridlen is a graduating senior majoring in English. This piece was completed in the fall of 2014 under the instruction of Dr. Ann Brunjes (English).

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