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Comparison between transcendentalism and romanticism. What are th...

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Comparison between transcendentalism and romanticism. What are the differences between the two?

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  • March 21, 2003
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Transcendentalism and Romanticism

Throughout time there have been many literary movements, many of which become forgotten over time. However they should not be forgotten because they have shaped American literature into what it is today. Two of the more important literary movements of the late 18th century to the early 19th century are transcendentalism and romanticism.

Transcendentalism was a literary movement in the first half of the 19th century. Transcendentalists were influenced by romanticism, especially such aspects of self examination, the celebration of individualism, and the exploring the beauties of nature and of humankind. According to them, fulfilling the search for knowledge came when one gained an awareness of beauty and truth, and communicated with nature to find union with the ?Over-Soul?, a term used by Emerson in place of God. When this occurred, one was cleansed of materialistic goals, and was left with a sense of self-reliance and purity. Leaders of this movement include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Theodore Parker, Bronson Alcott, William Ellery Channing, and Henry David Thoreau. These people were all transcendentalists. Transcendentalists can be seen as a generation of well educated people who lived in the decades before the American Civil War. (Lewis, ?What is Transcendentalism?? ) Transcendentalists deliberately went about creating literature, essays, novels, philosophy, poetry, and other writing that was clearly different from anything from England, France, Germany, or any other European Nation.

The concept of transcendentalism is clearly expressed in the essay "Nature", by Ralph Waldo Emerson. His essay "Nature" tells of how one can gain insight and spiritual cleansing simply from experiencing nature. Emerson tells of how "in the woods is perpetual youth" and "in the woods we return to reason and faith." These lines show the whole concept of transcendentalism. In the following lines, Emerson remarks: "Standing on the...