A Comprehensive Introduction To Transcendentalism



  • Students will identify and explain the causes, effects, and characteristics of the Transcendentalist movement and Transcendentalist texts in a short paragraph.
  • Using an example from the literature examined in class, students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the varying Asian cultural and religious ideologies (i.e. Hinduism and Confucianism) that influenced Transcendentalist thought and identify these ideologies in the context of American
  • Students will apply their knowledge of American Transcendentalism and the related Asian cultural and religious concepts to prominent Transcendentalist works to analyze related themes, identify examples of rhetorical devices (i.e. how ethos, pathos, and logos are created in a given text), and develop nuanced interpretations of the texts introduced in class.


Transcendentalism was a movement that completely changed America, from inspiring reform movements to challenging corruption. As a literary movement specifically, the Transcendentalists introduced a variety of concepts and characteristics that recognized the potential for human goodness. However, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendental Club developed their works in alignment with ideologies from Asian cultures and religions, namely those of Hinduism and Confucianism. It is important to note that these ‘religions’ are more often considered to be lifestyles by the communities they belong to, so religion and culture can be used interchangeably when referring to them. This lesson plan will introduce students to the holistic Transcendentalist movement – from the key concepts, figures, works, and impacts of American Transcendentalism to the Hindu and Confucian influences on Transcendentalism – to create a well-informed understanding of the Transcendentalist movement.


  1. What is Transcendentalism and what did the movement aim to accomplish?
  2. How did Transcendentalism affect American society and through what means?
  3. Who led the Transcendentalist movement and what texts did they create?
  4. How did Hinduism and Confucianism influence the creation of Transcendentalist literature?
  5. What aspects of Hinduism and Confucianism are prevalent in Transcendentalist literature?
  6. How are they similar to the characteristics/concepts of Transcendentalism?