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Transatlantic Crossings and Transformations

German-American Cultural Transfer from the 18th to the End of the 19th Century


Kurt Mueller-Vollmer

This volume attempts for the first time a comprehensive view of the momentous process of German-American cultural transfer during the 18 th and 19 th centuries, which played an important part in the formation of an American national and cultural identity, a process to which the New England Transcendentalists contributed some of the decisive ingredients, but which has largely escaped the attention of German and American scholarship. In each chapter a specific problem is treated systematically from a clearly defined perspective, deficiencies of existing translation theories are exposed, so that in the concluding chapters 13 and 14 (with an unpublished memorandum by Alexander von Humboldt) a cohesive view of the entire process emerges. A comprehensive bibliography will facilitate further scholarly pursuits.
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10. James Marsh, Cultural Mediator and Transcendentalist Thinker: Understanding “Reason and Understanding”


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10. James Marsh: Cultural Mediator and Transcendentalist Thinker: Understanding “Reason and Understanding”

10.1 James Marsh and the Coming of European Romanticism to the United States

The substantial and extensive part played by James Marsh (1794–1842) in the process of German-American cultural transfer during the 1820s and 1830s and the long-term effects it had on American cultural history have not been sufficiently recognized and frequently went unnoticed by scholars of Transcendentalism.1 One reason for this neglect may be that, as a cultural mediator, Marsh assumed different roles, was active in several environments, participated in diverse personal networks, and occupied an inconspicuous intergenerational position between the Göttingen alumni and the Transcendentalists. Yet he had significant dealings with both groups, and also entertained intellectual contacts with Charles Follen as well as the English poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge, two of whose works, Aids to Reflection and The Friend, he edited for the American reading public. But James Marsh was additionally, and perhaps foremost, a philosopher whose work has permanently shaped American philosophy as his twentieth-century student John Dewey has shown.2

After his graduation from Dartmouth in 1817, Marsh served his alma mater as a tutor in classics and theology for two years, and in 1820, enrolled at the Andover Theological Seminary to complete his ministerial studies. In 1824 he was ordained minister in Hanover, New Hampshire. Two years later, in October 1826, he was called to Burlington, Vermont to assume the...

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