Anti-Transcendentalism (1836-1860)
"The Enigma" by Gustaave Dore in 1871
"The Enigma" by Gustaave Dore in 1871

Anti-Transcendentalism, also called dark romanticism, was a literary movement that focused mainly on the dark side of human society.[1] It arose around the same time as Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism was characterized by optimistic belief in Utopian societies. Anti-Transcendentalism, however, described the true nature of society.
In response to Transcendentalism, many authors felt a need to show the public the truth of human nature and the many flaws of the world. Anti-Transcendentalism showed how corrupt the society really was. It emphasized war, diseases, natural disasters, murders, etc.[2] Authors wrote about worlds with conditions such as these, examples of which includeThe Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick. Paintings were also created, including "The Enigma" and "Fading Away". "The Enigma" by Gustaave Dore



Key Figures

In the era of Anti-Transcendentalism, there were many writers who dedicated their lives to writing novels detailing
how the government was full of corruption and injustice.
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Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allen Poe were the "Dark Romantics" of the Anti-Transcendentalists movement.
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However, Hawthorne and Melville were the most monumental writers in this period.

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Nathaniel Hawthorn wrote the Scarlet Letter as a example of how immoral the government was during this time. He wrote this novel to portray the injustice in the punishments they decree. In the Scarlet Letter, Hester was accussed by the government for having another lover, so she was disgraced for the rest of her life by having to wear an A across her clothing at all times. The A is a symbol for adultry, and by wearing it she has to bare the ridicule of her actions forever.




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Herman Melville

Melville wrote the novel Moby Dick. Herman harshly critiicized capitalism, slavery, war and imperialism. However, he showed passion towards "classes of men who bear the same relation to society at large that the wheels do to a coach." http://www.slideshare.net/ahearnet/antitranscendentalism As a last quote by Melville, he stated,"If, at my death, my executors, or more properly my creditors, find any precious manuscripts in my desk, then here I prospectively ascribe all the honor and glory to whaling; for the whale ship was my Yale
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College and my Harvard."




The writer's beliefs were:
  • That each human spirit had a potential destructiveness
  • In individual truths, but not universal truths, and also that the truths of existance are deceitful and disturbing
  • that human nature has an original sin and that evil is active in the universe
Reasons/ causes
  • Opposed the optimism and naïve idealism of the transcendentalists
  • Dwelt on the guilt and remorse over past sins
  • Discontented with current circumstances in America (poverty/unjust and cruel of factory workers, poor educational system, lack of women’s rights, slavery…) so they focused on moral dilemmas and society’s ills
  • Focused on the dark side of humanity and the evilness and guilt of sin




Key Works

*Put your stuff here Tony*

Yeah, come on Tony! Get your act together!




Popular Culture

During the New England Renaissance, Anti-Transcendentalism was a more depressing, if you will, literature that spoke of the limitations and destructiveness of the human race. One of the most well-known writers of Anti-Transcendentalism was Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also Emily Dickinson incorporated his styles of writing during this time.