The main characteristics of American transcendentalism are the belief in the good found in both man and nature, but that they can be come corrupted by society. This was both a religious movement and a philosophical one. Two of the most famous names associated with the movement were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Emerson was key in creating some of the key practices of the movement. He was vital in making the poet be seen as a representative of everyone. Along with that distinction came the perception that these same poets were above others because of their talents and gifts. The poets saw that function was as important as form, if not more so.