Inspiring A Nation
The Transcendentalist movement and American Romanticism was also incredibly influential in the beginning of what is known as the American Renaissance, a period of captivating poetry, painting, music, and most importantly literature. It was a focus on beauty, the individual, and the expression of these values through different artistic mediums. The poet Walt Whitman, a friend of Emerson, embraced the Transcendentalist ideals throughout his poetry although never identifying as such. He broke away from the traditional aspects of early American poetry and focused on the beauty of the individual, the complexity of nature, the lives of everyday American people, and America’s fight to find itself.
Writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne fiercely criticized the moral constraints and cruelty of Puritan society, emphasizing in his characters liberation the Transcendentalist ideals of individualism and release from societal expectations. Even Herman Melville, who seemed to completely reject Transcendental optimism throughout Moby Dick was greatly influenced by the dramatic shift in the national culture, still echoing Thoreau’s themes of death and rebirth in Walden (9).
The intellectualism and philosophy of the Transcendentalists inspired a nation to bring their values to the artistic field. Writers from the American Renaissance are considered some of the most influential in American History, so it is no wonder that they as well paved the way for art, literature, philosophy, and new intellectualism in the generations following them. Transcendentalism was the first uniquely American movement, bringing about a new way of life for so many and inspiring change in the course of society.