What Is Transcendentalism?
Lasting Impact of the Movement
New England Transcendentalism as a movement really thrived only for about twenty-five years. The world was not completely reformed by the words and efforts of its proponents. But people today still read Emerson's Nature and Thoreau's Walden. The importance of these thinkers lies in the endurance of their major writings as American classics, worth reading in any period, in their influence upon later writers, American and foreign, and in the powerful inspiration that their reform efforts provided to later social movements, notably the impetus given to Mohandas Gandhi and to the American civil rights movement of the 1960s by Thoreau's principle of nonviolent resistance to oppressive civil government as expressed in Civil Disobedience (first published in 1849).