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Ideas and Thought of American Transcendentalism


What Is American Transcendentalism?

Even more than most "isms," American Transcendentalism defies neat definition, now and in the nineteenth century. A loose collection of eclectic ideas about literature, philosophy, religion, social reform, and the general state of American culture, transcendentalism had different meanings for each person involved in the movement, including those who attended the Transcendental Club. Even today it is difficult to say definitively whom can be considered a transcendentalist, and readers still might disagree about the ideas and legacy of this distinctively American movement with so many foreign roots. Yet all agree that that transcendentalism, however defined, did flourish, primarily in Concord and Boston but also in Vermont (see comparison of these two manifestations by Diane Yoder), in the nineteenth century and that its influence on American culture and literary was profound.

Here, then, is a range of definitions, most of which--appropriately--reflect those who are defining to some degree.