Chapter 4: American Transcendentalism

James Marsh

Paul P. Reuben
October 17, 2016

Page Links: |Selected Bibliography | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |

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Source: American Transcendentalism

James Marsh was a Congregationalist minister, a professor of philosophy at the University of Vermont, and from 1826 to 1833 served as president of the University of Vermont.  His chief contribution to American Transcendentalism is his publication, in 1829, of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Aids to Reflection, which contained aphorisms of both Coleridge and Archbishop Robert Leighton.  This work introduced Americans to Coleridge and his views of German philosophical thought, in particular to the crucial distinction between Understanding and Reason&emdash;perhaps the key epistemological concept of the Romantic age.  For Marsh and the New England Transcendentalists, the prevailing Lockean and Scottish metaphysical philosophies were unsatisfactory, since they excluded the possibility of spiritual power and agency and were logically incompatible with an essentially spiritual religion.  The principles advocated by Coleridge, on the other hand, directly challenged Locke and provided the reconciliation of religion and philosophy that reason demanded.

Marsh also edited Coleridge's The Statesman's Manual in 1832 and The Friend in 1833.  His efforts encouraged the Transcendentalists in their path away from John Locke and toward a more spiritual, more fulfilling, more authentic gospel. - James Marsh

Selected Bibliography

Duffy, John J. ed. Coleridge's American Disciples: the Selected Correspondence of James Marsh, 1973. B931 M34 A4

Crawford, Walter B. ed. Reading Coleridge: Approaches and Applications. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1979.

MLA Style Citation of this Web Page:

Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 4: James Marsh." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. WWW URL: (provide page date or your date of logon).