The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English


New England Transcendentalism inherited a vague yet exalting conception of the godlike nature of the human spririt and in insistence on the authority of individual conscience, a related respect for the significance and autonomy of every aspect of human experience within the organic totality of life, and a denial of philosophical dualism, reductivism, and positivism. Transcendentalists conceived of nature not as a vast machine demanding impersonal manipulation but as an organism, a symbol and anlaogue of mind, and a moral educator for the poet who can read her symbolism. In general, they valued imagination over reason, creativity above theory, action higher than contemplation; and they tended to see the spontaneous activity of the creative artist as the ultimate achievement of civilization.

Transcendentalists included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Ellery Channing, Amos Bronson Alcott, George Ripley, Orestes Brownson, Margaret Fuller, Theodore Parker, Jones Very, James Freeman Clarke, and Christopher Pearse Cranch.

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