What were the beliefs of transcendentalism, and how did American writers incorporate them into their work?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Transcendentalism is a term used to describe writers who have certain beliefs.  These writers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller, believed there was a relationship between humans and nature.  They also believed in listening to one's conscience.  They focused on emphasizing spiritual concepts over material ones.  They believed that people have the ability to "transcend" or move past what they are experiencing from their senses.  Thus, we see these writers tackle important issues about which they had very strong feelings.  Margaret Fuller wrote about the need for equal rights for women.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about ending prejudice.  He also believed everybody was good.  He encouraged Americans to look at themselves for ideas instead of looking toward other countries and people from other countries.  Henry David Thoreau believed in civil disobedience.  He refused to pay his taxes because he was against the war with Mexico.  Thoreau also tried to live very closely with nature.  He spent two years living at Walden Pond being tied very closely to nature and not pursuing material wealth.  Transcendentalist ideas were a part of some American writers (especially in New England), and the beliefs of the movement are reflected in their writing.