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Romanticism vs. Transcendentalism: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 2, 2024
Romanticism is an artistic and intellectual movement emphasizing emotion and nature, while Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement focusing on inherent goodness and spiritual transcendence.

Key Differences

Romanticism, originating in the late 18th century, emphasizes emotion, individualism, and nature's beauty. Transcendentalism, emerging in the 19th century in America, focuses on spiritual transcendence and the inherent goodness of people and nature.
Romanticism views nature as a source of inspiration and emotional experience, often contrasting it with industrial society. Transcendentalism sees nature as a pathway to spiritual and personal growth, transcending the material world.
Romanticism is broad, encompassing art, literature, and music, with a focus on intense emotion and sublime experiences. Transcendentalism is more philosophical, promoting self-reliance, intuition, and social reform, influenced by Eastern philosophies.
Romanticism influenced various cultural and artistic movements worldwide, celebrating creativity and intense human experience. Transcendentalism had a significant impact on American thought, influencing social reform movements and individual spirituality.
Romanticism is associated with artists and writers like Wordsworth, Shelley, and Beethoven. Transcendentalism's key figures include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who emphasized individual conscience and nature.

Comparison Chart

Core Philosophy

Emphasizes emotion, individualism, nature.
Focuses on spiritual transcendence, inherent goodness.

Artistic Expression

Found in art, literature, music.
More philosophical, with social reform undertones.

View of Nature

Source of inspiration, contrast to society.
Pathway to spiritual and personal growth.

Historical Period

Late 18th to mid-19th century.
Primarily early to mid-19th century in America.

Key Proponents

Wordsworth, Shelley, Beethoven.
Emerson, Thoreau.

Romanticism and Transcendentalism Definitions


An artistic movement valuing emotion and individualism.
The painting captured the essence of romanticism with its emphasis on dramatic landscapes.


Advocates for self-reliance and individual intuition.
The book promotes transcendentalism's idea of trusting one's intuitive insights.


A literary style focusing on imagination and intense emotion.
Her poetry, full of vivid imagery and emotion, is a great example of romanticism.


A philosophical movement emphasizing spiritual transcendence.
His essays reflect transcendentalism's belief in transcending the physical world.


Embraces nature's beauty and mystery.
The novel's romanticism is evident in its detailed descriptions of the natural world.


Emphasizes the inherent goodness of people and nature.
Her lecture on transcendentalism focused on the innate goodness of humanity.


A reaction against industrialization and rationalism.
Romanticism in his music was a response to the cold mechanization of the industrial age.


Connected to social reform movements in 19th-century America.
Transcendentalism's principles fueled various social and political reforms of the era.


Celebrates the sublime and extraordinary aspects of life.
His compositions reflect romanticism's fascination with the sublime.


Influenced by Eastern philosophies and spirituality.
His writings on transcendentalism were heavily influenced by Eastern religious thought.


Often Romanticism An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 1700s and characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.


Often Transcendentalism A literary and philosophical movement arising in 19th-century New England, associated with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller and asserting the existence of an ideal spiritual reality that transcends empirical and scientific reality and is knowable through intuition.


Romantic quality or spirit in thought, expression, or action.


The quality or state of being transcendental.


A romantic quality, spirit or action.


The transcending, or going beyond, empiricism, and ascertaining a priori the fundamental principles of human knowledge.


A fondness for romantic characteristics or peculiarities; specifically, in modern literature, an aiming at romantic effects; - applied to the productions of a school of writers who sought to revive certain medi val forms and methods in opposition to the so-called classical style.
He [Lessing] may be said to have begun the revolt from pseudo-classicism in poetry, and to have been thus unconsciously the founder of romanticism.


Ambitious and imaginative vagueness in thought, imagery, or diction.


Impractical romantic ideals and attitudes


A philosophy which holds that reasoning is key to understanding reality (associated with Kant); philosophy which stresses intuition and spirituality (associated with Ralph Waldo Emerson); transcendental character or quality.


A movement in literature and art during the late 18th and early 19th centuries that celebrated nature rather than civilization;
Romanticism valued imagination and emotion over rationality


A movement of writers and philosophers in New England in the 19th century who were loosely bound together by adherence to an idealistic system of thought based on a belief in the essential supremacy of insight over logic and experience for the revelation of the deepest truths.


An exciting and mysterious quality (as of a heroic time or adventure)


The transcending, or going beyond, empiricism, and ascertaining a priori the fundamental principles of human knowledge.


Ambitious and imaginative vagueness in thought, imagery, or diction.


Any system of philosophy emphasizing the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical and material


How did transcendentalism influence American society?

It influenced social reforms, advocating for abolition, women's rights, and educational reform.

What is romanticism?

Romanticism is an artistic and intellectual movement emphasizing emotion, individualism, and nature.

Can romanticism be seen in literature?

Yes, romanticism is evident in literature, characterized by imagination, emotion, and a focus on nature.

What role does nature play in romanticism?

In romanticism, nature is a source of inspiration, beauty, and emotional experience.

What defines transcendentalism?

Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement focusing on spiritual transcendence and inherent goodness.

What is the main belief of transcendentalism?

The main belief is in the inherent goodness of people and nature, and the importance of spiritual transcendence.

How did romanticism influence art?

Romanticism influenced art by emphasizing emotional depth, individual expression, and the beauty of nature.

Did transcendentalism impact other philosophical movements?

Yes, it influenced later philosophical and spiritual movements, particularly in its emphasis on individual conscience.

Who are key figures in transcendentalism?

Key figures include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Are romanticism and transcendentalism related?

They share similarities in valuing nature and individualism but differ in their philosophical and cultural expressions.

How does transcendentalism view industrialization?

Transcendentalism generally views industrialization critically, emphasizing a return to nature and individual spirituality.

Did romanticism affect architecture?

Yes, romanticism influenced architecture, seen in the Gothic Revival and picturesque movements.

Does transcendentalism have a religious aspect?

While not strictly religious, it incorporates spiritual elements and often intersects with religious thought.

What genres of music were influenced by romanticism?

Romanticism significantly influenced classical music, with composers like Beethoven and Chopin.

What are transcendentalism's views on materialism?

Transcendentalism often rejects materialism, focusing instead on spiritual and inner experiences.

How does transcendentalism relate to Eastern philosophies?

Transcendentalism was influenced by Eastern philosophies, particularly their spiritual and introspective aspects.

What kind of poetry is associated with romanticism?

Poetry that emphasizes emotion, nature, and individual experience is associated with romanticism.

Can transcendentalism be applied to modern life?

Yes, its principles of self-reliance and spiritual growth are applicable to personal development today.

Is romanticism still relevant today?

Romanticism's themes of emotion and nature continue to influence contemporary culture and art.

How did romanticism change the way we view artists?

Romanticism helped view artists as unique creators expressing individual vision and emotion.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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