Transcendentalism in English Literature – Meaning and Characteristics


Transcendentalism was a movement inspired by Romanticism that emerged during the 1830s and 1840s. It was not just a literary movement but also a philosophical one. Like Romanticism, Transcendentalism too shunned rationality and rose to its prominence in America. 

Characteristic Features of Transcendentalism


Transcendentalism celebrated individualism, even more so than Romanticism. It was preferred above all else. Being dependent was shunned.


Similarly, Transcendentalism also commemorated nonconformity. It rejected established traditional norms and conventions and was against following societal expectations blindly.

Self Realisation

Transcendentalism also values self-realisation and relying on one’s own intuition. It encouraged individuals to be self-reliant.

Transcendentalism Major Poets List and Their Important Works

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson was the pioneer of Transcendentalism. His magnum opus “Self-Reliance” is one of the most important texts of Transcendentalism and the manifesto of the same.

Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau was also an important member of the Transcendentalism movement. Famous works of his include “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience”. 

Walt Whitman

Whitman again was a prominent work. His most famous work is his collection “Leaves of Grass”. 


Transcendentalism was a groundbreaking movement in America that transformed their way of intellect and thinking during the Romantic Age.