What Is Anti-Transcendentalism?

Anti-transcendentalism was a literary subgenre that focused on human fallibility and proneness to sin. This subgenre is better known as dark romanticism, according to Education Portal.

The American Romantic period of 1800 to 1860 categorized writers into either transcendentalist or dark romantics, according to Education Portal. The dark romantics were characterized by the serious and horrific tones within their works. The most prominent dark romantics were Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Poe utilized symbols to carry out his effect. Education Portal notes that the raven in Poe’s poem “The Raven” symbolizes death. Hawthorne explored the psychological effects of guilt and sin through his characters. In his 1850 novel, “The Scarlet Letter,” Hawthorne examines the emotions that a non-celibate minister experiences as he grapples with his sins. Hawthorne believed guilt, sin and evil to be innate qualities within humans, according to Education Portal.

For these dark romantic writers, evil was everywhere, in terms of how it was preached by many of the New England Puritans. Dark romanticism branched out farther than New England and was picked up by British and German authors like Lord Byron and E.T.A. Hoffmann. In the 20th century, existentialist authors such as Robert Howard also were influenced by dark romanticism.