My students have found very helpful this introductory overview lecture/handout about the background and major ideas of American Romanticism and Transcendentalism. It may prove valuable to you by providing some ideas which you might wish to incorporate in a survey lecture on Romanticism and Transcendentalism. First the handout discusses the historical and social background of the Romantic movement. Next it examines the three periods of American Romanticism and its major ideas, such as Feeling, Imagination, Individualism, and Symbolism. Finally, it defines Transcendentalism and reviews its central doctrines, including the Over-Soul, Nature, Self-Trust, Anti-Materialism, and Democracy. Examples are drawn from the movement’s greatest writers: Cooper, Poe, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Melville. The handout has blanks which students can fill in during your lecture or during small-group work.
An answer key is provided on a separate page at the end of the handout. This lecture/handout was prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.