The role of Emersonian transcendentalism in Alan Ball’s American Beauty and Six Feet Under
AdvisorIrizarry-Rodríguez, José M.
CollegeCollege of Arts and Sciences - Arts
DepartmentDepartment of English
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This thesis explores the manner in which Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s nineteenth century transcendentalist thought as described in his essays, Nature, The American Scholar, and Self Reliance, is present and appropriated in Alan Ball‘s HBO series‘, Six Feet Under (SFU), and film, American Beauty (AB). The discussion demonstrates that a modernized version of Emersonian transcendentalism is part of Ball‘s two works, mainly through his exploration of death, and it is within this topic that the protagonists of AB and SFU are able to transcend and appreciate life. The thesis also explores the manner in which Alan Ball creates a space in AB and SFU for the critique and questioning of societal taboos and controversies. The methodology used consists of the literary analysis of specific SFU episodes and scenes in AB. The results demonstrate that Emersonian transcendentalism is clearly present in Ball‘s works and that most of his protagonists are indeed able to transcend as Emerson describes in Nature, The American Scholar, and Self Reliance.