A Guide to Transcendentalism in Literature




It is a philosophical, political and literary movement whose father is Ralph Waldo Emerson and that proposes that knowledge can be obtained through the senses, intuition and contemplation. It arose as a reaction to or protest against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality.

Characteristics of the Trascendentalism Movement

  1. The roots of this philosophical movement go back to the theories of Immanuel Kant.ant concerned himself with the abstractions of existence – those things which cannot be known for sure.
  2. Trascendentalists believe that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent.
  3. Trascendentalists believe that individual intuition is the highest source of knowledge.
  4. Transcendental writers consider that religion and political parties corrupted the purity of the individual.
  5. A lot of the Transcendentalist writers wrote poetry as well as essays.
  6. The Transcendentalists believed that folks can understand truth through intuition.
  7. According to the Transcendentalists, the only way to access that realm of experience and knowledge is to trust in our intuition.
  8. Transcendentalists  professed skepticism of all established religions, believing that Divinity resided in the individual.
  9. Transcendentalists believed that nature and man are intertwined and designed to fit together like pieces of a larger puzzle and that total consciousness could be achieved through observing nature
  10. Trascendentalists believe that the universe is within ourselves.
  11. Trascentalism opposed slavery and gender inequality

 Authors and Literary Works

Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. A leading transcendentalist, Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay “Civil Disobedience”

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850), commonly known as Margaret Fuller, was an American journalist, critic, and women’s rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement.

Other Literary Movements and Periods

If you want to learn more about literary periods and movements, consider visiting some of these posts:

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