Transcendental and Anti-Transcendental Movements
distinct movements known as Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism. Both movements
against previously accepted ideas.
Transcendentalists. The Transcendentalists believed deeply in human potential and in the purity of
spirit and the capability of it reaching the “Over Soul”. The “Over Soul” is the so-called state in
literary work which reflects the Transcendental ideas is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”.
is highly stressed. “Self Reliance” focuses its theme around the Transcendental idea of
individualism. “..That imitation is suicide”, a quote from “Self-Reliance”, shows the reader that
Emerson also writes that, “The power which resides in him (referring to all humans) is new in
This reflects the idea of the Transcendentalism which looks at the possibilities of the human spirit,
and what it can achieve.
Contrasting Transcendentalism, Anti-Transcendentalism focused on the darkness of the
human soul. Anti-Transcendentalism believed that the Transcendental point of view was much too
Anti-Transcendentalists embraced the existence of sin and evil, which made their literary pieces
very dark. They viewed Nature as a two-sided force, having both a graceful side and a destructive
side. For Anti-Transcendentalists, Nature reflected all that was paradoxical and unexplainable.
Their focus was also on the limitations of the human spirit, and stressed the idea that each of us
Anti-transcendental ideas can be recognized throughout the entity of the story.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” deals with sin and concealed guilt,
with hypocrisy and humility, in a dark tale that shows the true insight of the Puritan conscience.
His story reflects the Anti-Transcendental ideas, using a black veil covering a minister’s face to
symbolize human sin. He symbolized the Anti-Transcendental ideas of life’s truths beings
mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our
consciousness, even forgetting that the omniscient can detect them”. This quote from this story, is
an example of the Anti-Transcendental idea that we all have sins which we hide, and it is a
noticed that Hawthorne continues to show the fear of sin and also now, the sin of the Earth
involved his own spirit in the horror with which overwhelmed all others. His frame shuddered, his
For the Earth, too, had on her Black Veil.” Nature, as believed by the Anti-Transcendentalists,
was a symbol of everything unexplainable, and since nobody in the village knew (or wanted to
this Anti-Transcendental idea.
Both the Transcendental and Anti-Transcendental movements, influenced literature
greatly. The authors during the movements concentrated on reflecting the ideas (of the
corresponding movement) to the reader in a symbolic way through literature. The literature builds
the idea of humanity and nature in different perspectives, which reflects the principle ideas of both