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What Is Transcendentalism In American Literature? Main Characteristics Of It?

Referencing Styles : Chicago | Pages : 2

The Transcendentalism philosophy was first arose in New England. The most famous adherents of this philosophy are Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who are still considered as leading thinkers of America. The transcendentalism philosophy has been first officially introduced in the year 1830 in the east part of United States by some of intellectual people at that time. The adherents of Transcendentalism had intense spiritual experiences and transcended the material world of reasoning and rationality. The transcendentalism philosophy also originated from Unitarianism which is the product of predominant religious movement at the start of 19th century at Boston. The Unitarianism focuses on intellectualism, rationality and reasoning which got very much popular in Harvard. Also, Unitarianism was considered to be a liberal Christian section. The Transcendental club was established by the Transcendentalists in Cambridge in the year 1836 by taking most of the Unitarian clergy and the Boston area intellectuals. Unitarianism was not rejected in the establishment but yearned a more of spiritual experience to balance the emphasis on reason. Transcendentalism means to spiritual development of individual by which one is transcended from the material world and rationality. The belief of the transcendentalists are that the humans are good from their core but gets corrupted by the society and thus must strive for self-reliance and independence.

The characteristics of Transcendentalism literature are

1) Idealism is a form of Transcendentalism.

2) A transcendentalist typically rises above the animalistic life impulse (also known as animal drives) to higher life of realization of spiritual realm.

3) The soul of a human is one tiny part of Oversoul or spirit of universe to which it and all the souls returns at their death. Hence, each of the individual is needed to be respected as each one of them are the part of that Oversoul (God).

4) The Oversoul is known as God and exists everywhere in the Universe and thus no place is more holistic than other or spiritualism can be realized from any place.

5) God exists in both human nature and in nature. Nature is defined by Emerson as spiritual manifestations.

6) Lord Jesus is also a part of God and he was as divine as any other human. However, Jesus lived transcendental and exemplary life and used the power which exists in every human being at its best.

7) Miracles are not considered as important as it was considered important for the people in the past. Miracle is the creation of this world and happens every time one creature from smallest to largest was born.

8) People should be more concerned about the living life than the afterlife as indicated by Emerson.

9) No one should fear death as it is inevitable and natural. Hence people should not restrict their jobs in fear of death as in death the soul only settles with the Oversoul or the God.

10) People should emphasize on their present instead of imagining the future as the present effects the future life.

11) Evil should not blamed but should be elevated in light as evil is just the absence of good. Good or light is more powerful than darkness or evil as one single ray of light can penetrate darkness.

12) Power needs to be gained by fighting with the fate or predefined destinations. This works for humans as exercising the spiritual and moral strength humans can defy their fate or emphasizing on the self-reliance.

13) Emphasis is mostly placed on the thinking of human being.

14) Transcendentalists are able to foresee the necessity of great leaders, writers, philosophers and other thinker who can motivate individuals through high-level thinking and efficient actions.

15) One should not be worried about consistency as if an intelligent person believes that he/she will be consistent on tomorrow and if he/she has self-confidence then tomorrow can be completely different from today and thus the perspective of tomorrow may need to be change from today.

16) One must realize the unity of universe and human life. There exists certain relationship between all living and non-living things.

17) Everyone must apply their intuition before anything and must have faith in their intuition as no creed or church can always communicate the truth.

18) Reformation must not be forced as true reformation always comes from the inside.

The elements or components of transcendentalism are individualism, optimism, intuition and self-reliance.

Individualism is the property of a person which separates that person from others in terms of thinking. An individual person is independent from the people in his/her surroundings and thus urges to stay in that way. This also suggests that a person must be confident on himself and must be successful for himself more than for anyone and thus any types of envy and imitation have no worth.

The self-reliance is about the reliability of a person’s abilities more than the power or abilities of other persons. Self-reliance is essential for the transcendentalists as it motivates the people on their self-abilities rather than their surrounding situations or competitors. This also means that a person can only trust or rely on himself above anyone else and no goods can be obtained from him if that is not his creation. This follows from the idea of transcendentalism as no one can go beyond any society and has to be a part of the society.

Optimism is a component of transcendentalism which means that there is some good in every situation or some good can be extracted from every situation or no situation is completely bad. This idea supports that no matter how bad anyone fails, there’s always a second chance is coming. Optimist vision of a half-glass of water is that the glass is half filled and pessimist vision is that the glass is half-empty. Transcendentalists believe that there is exists some good in every aspect of nature and that good can be made into better with willingness.

Intuition is the quality of knowing something that comes from natural understanding, not from experience. Intuition is created by conscience and instincts and by the transcendentalists every society has those inhibit qualities that helps to develop the intuition of any person. Pure intuition is produced by the spirit of infancy as this can’t be corrupted by any society.

Feminism was introduced Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and Louisa May Alcott in the early 19th century. This introduction was led by the transcendentalism movement in which individualism has inspired many women to stand up to by themselves with education and other aspects of life. In the late 19th century feminists have built their own revolutionary ideals through the movement with the transcendentalists to create their own unique female agenda. Margaret Fuller was also a strong individualist who joined in the female evolution and took the advantage of the transcendentalists’ movement to establish the newfound power of independent women. Fuller emphasized on the intellect of women and her primary motive is to construct a bridge between the education gap of men and women. She believed that women are not only worthy of being highly educated but also can compete head to head to men in terms of intelligence. Her quote ‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader’ inspired many women at that time and helped them to succeed in so-called men-dominant society.


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