Historical Context in Self-Reliance
This essay is considered one of the most important pieces of writing in the history of US literature. This statement, and other themes in the essay, are still relevant today, which shows the timelessness of Emerson’s ideas and the impact of the transcendentalist movement.
Transcendent means to go beyond the range of physical and normal human experience. Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of the leaders of the Transcendentalist movement, a philosophical and literary movement in the 19th century that supported a new way of thinking that argued for individualism, nature, and free spirituality.
Emerson compares Hudson and Behring’s (Bering’s) modes of explorations with that of Parry and Franklin to highlight how Hudson and Behring were able to make great strides in exploration without the aid of advanced exploration technology. Although we would not consider Parry and Franklin’s equipment to be advanced now, they most likely had access to the best equipment when Emerson wrote this in 1841.