Transcendental Movement of the 1800s

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau Pages: 5 (1621 words) Published: November 8, 2013
November 4, 2013

Transcendental Movement of the 1800s

Transcendentalism was a religious, literary, and social movement that occurred between 1830 and 1855. Transcendentalists “…focused on personal spiritual awakening and individual self-gained insight; they were idealistic and embraced nature as they reacted against the increasingly commercial nature of the emerging American society.” [1] The Transcendental Club, where this movement received its name, met in the Boston area during this movement. At this club ten to twenty people would come to discuss previously chosen topics ranging from religion and morals to the more important beliefs of individualism and, most importantly, nature. Two of the most popular figures that majorly influenced this movement, who frequented the meetings of the transcendental club, include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Emerson, the most widely known author from the transcendental period, was a leader of this movement after his completion of his essay entitled Nature. This movement led to literary works on the issues of social reforms, some of which are still influencing movement leaders in the modern day. Vocal reforms were among the most popular reforms at this time; people wrote essays and made speeches in order to get congress’s attention. Transcendentalism was intended to be deliverance of the soul and, as time went on, grew into liberation of things like slavery, labor reforms, women’s rights, and so many more which compelled authors to express their opinions of these things in vocal reforms to draw attention to them and open the eyes of the government.

Transcendentalism began in New England around 1830 and lasted until the mid-1850s. It first arose among New England Congregationalists, who differed from orthodox Calvinism on two issues. The first was that transcendentalists did not believe in and rejected predestination and they also stressed the unanimity rather than the trinity of God. They believed, in order to comprehend the divine, God, and the universe, one must transcend, or go beyond, the physical and emotional portrayals of normal human thought. Their beliefs include that all people are inherently good, humans can rise above to a higher spiritual plane; they transcend through intuition not reason, by learning from and living in harmony with nature, and as an individual; every human being is capable of transcending; after transcending one will want to do the right and moral thing and work toward the betterment of their society. At the heart of transcendentalist belief is the Over-Soul. This is the belief that says that all forms of being, by God, nature, and humanity, are united through a shared universal soul. The Over-Soul can also be seen as the Ideal or Supreme Mind. Transcendentalists around the Boston area would have meetings known as the Transcendental Club six times every year starting in 1836. At these meetings anyone could attend and the size ranged from ten to twenty people. Those who attended discussed predetermined topics that exhibited the beliefs of this movement. Some examples of these topics include religion, moral values, individualism, and nature. From 1840, the group published articles of their opinions on what they have discussed and other topics that they have strong beliefs for frequently in their journal The Dial, along with other venues. This movement received its name from this club, but in some instances it was also known as Hedge's Club, the Aesthetic Club, the symposium, or, just simply, the Club.

This particular movement was very influential in literature. Many of the authors and philosophers who were affiliated with the transcendentalism movement did not agree on how to define transcendentalism, which reflects their beliefs of individualism, so their writings would, oftentimes, differ in theme. Many of the themes that are seen in literary work of this time include religion, values in a society, and reverence for...

Bibliography: VLACS 3.02 Romanticism and Transcendentalism. Accessed November 5, 2013.
Robinson, David M. "Transcendentalism." American History Through Literature 1820-1870. Ed. Janet Gabler-Hover and Robert Sattelmeyer. Vol. 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner 's Sons, 2006. 1171-1180. Student Resources In Context.
Thoreau, Henry David
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