The movement and literature
What is Transcendentalism?
Transcendentalism may be defined as a system of
philosophy where one seeks knowledge through
experience, nature, the self, spirit and intuition. It was a
movement during the 1830’s -1840’s that began as a
response to intellectualism.
Transcendentalism was born in New England, mainly
because of the intellectual movement associated with
Harvard University and The Universalist Church.
Transcendentalists believed in the inherent goodness of
man and that the Universalist Church and the Intellects
of the day corrupted man in his purest form.
They sought a way back to this purist form of goodness
through meditations, writing, self realization, and
communion with nature. They strove for self-reliance as
Some of the most famous Transcendentalists are:
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry David Thoreau
Romantic Era 1850-1920
There were several traits of Romanticism.
This was true in music, art, literature and dance.
Some of the more popular poets of the Romantic Era
were in two differing realms: those who wrote with a
focus on nature and those who wrote in a dark style.
They were inspired by nature, religion and patriotism.
What is the basis of Transcendentalism?
Where was the birthplace of The Transcendentalist
What was it in response to?
Who were some of the more prolific writers mentioned?
What things inspired the poets and authors?
A closer look…
Writers during this era often concerned themselves with
nature and social causes. For example, Henry David
Thoreau spent a night in jail as a result of not paying his
poll tax. He refused to pay it because the money went
toward funding the Mexican American War, which he
They wrote, they spoke out and their lives often
reflected the beliefs they held onto.
Emerson & Thoreau
Emerson and Thoreau were very good friends. They both
lived in Concord, Massachusetts and were quite vocal.
They both wrote essays and journals, but while Emerson
was more of a speaker, Thoreau was more of a walking
symbol of the Transcendental movement.
Henry David Thoreau spent two years of his life
recording his thoughts and daily life while living in the
small cabin he built by hand on Emerson’s property at
Every thing that Thoreau ate, wore, used as a tool, or
slept in, sat on, and ate at were built by him from the
materials given to us by nature.
His famous Book of writing, On Walden Pond, describes
all that he did and accomplished during these two years
While living at Walden Pond, Thoreau not only recorded
his activities, but he recorded his musings on nature,
God, life, and the inner self.
He used much figurative language to describe his time at
Walden Pond and brought the world to life with these
“Though it is now dark, the wind still blows and roars in
the wood, the waves still dash, and some creatures lull
the rest with their notes. The repose is never complete.
The wildest animals do not repose, but seek their prey
now; the fox, and skunk, and rabbit, now roam the fields
and woods without fear. They are Nature's watchmen —
links which connect the days of animated life.”