Materials: Copies of selected transcendental literature, pens, pencils and paper


  • The student will develop thematic connections among works by using specific references to validate connections
  • The student will develop thematic connections among works by examining how representative elements such as mood, tone and style impact the development of theme
  • The student will interpret the significance of literary movements as they have evolved through the literature of the United States by analyzing the characteristics of Transcendentalism
  • The student will analyze the relationships among U.S. authors and their works by making and supporting valid responses about the text through references to other works and authors.
varies depending on texts chosen


1. Play a theme song to a popular movie or television show, such as "Friends." Ask students to quick write about how that song relates to the show it introduces.

2. Introduce the definition and examples of theme in literature.

3. Send students to "New England Transcendentalism" from the November 1998 issue of Concord Magazine, or print and distribute copies.

4. Ask students to identify the major themes in Transcendental literature, as explained in the article. Then, ask them to create a table with at least five rows and five columns, one for each piece of literature you choose to read. Here are links to some possibilites:

6. As you read the Transcendental work you choose, ask students to find evidence of recurring themes in each piece. Fill in the table with those themes. (See sample Transcendental Themes table).

7. Ask students to choose a major theme and write a two page paper about how that theme represents Transcendental thought, using evidence from the table.


The Transcendental Theme table can be graded for completion and accuracy; the Transcendental Theme paper can be graded for accuracy and form.


"Literature - Analyzing Theme." 2009. Annenberg Media. 7 Aug. 2009.

Virginia Commonwealth University: Ideas and Thoughts of American Transcendentalism

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