Transatlantic Conversations on an American Icon
Publication Year: 2013
The first of three sections, “Thoreau and (Non)Modernity,” views Thoreau as a social thinker who set himself against the “modern” currents of his day even while contributing to the emergence of a new era. By questioning the place of humans in the social, economic, natural, and metaphysical order, he ushered in a rethinking of humanity’s role in the natural world that nurtured the environmental movement. The second section, “Thoreau and Philosophy,” examines Thoreau’s writings in light of the philosophy of his time as well as current philosophical debates. Section three, “Thoreau, Language, and the Wild,” centers on his relationship to wild nature in its philosophical, scientific, linguistic, and literary dimensions. Together, these sixteen essays reveal Thoreau’s relevance to a number of fields, including science, philosophy, aesthetics, environmental ethics, political science, and animal studies.
Thoreauvian Modernities posits that it is the germinating power of Thoreau’s thought—the challenge it poses to our own thinking and its capacity to address pressing issues in a new way—that defines his enduring relevance and his modernity.
Contributors: Kristen Case, Randall Conrad, David Dowling, Michel Granger, Michel Imbert, Michael Jonik, Christian Maul, Bruno Monfort, Henrik Otterberg, Tom Pughe, David M. Robinson, William Rossi, Dieter Schulz, François Specq, Joseph Urbas, Laura Dassow Walls.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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List of Illustrations
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Th is book grew out of a May 2009 conference in Lyon, the fi rst ever such meet-ing on European soil devoted to Th oreau. Th e editors would like to acknowledge the generous support of the diff erent organizations, and the men and women who constitute them, that in various ways devoted time and expertise as well as funding to the organization of this conference: École Normale Supérieure de ...
List of Abbreviations
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Introduction: The Manifold Modernity of Henry D. Thoreau
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All the essays gathered in this volume off er, to some degree, scholarly med-itations inspired by thinking about Th oreau. Here—in the continuing relevance of his writings to our time, as they were once relevant to his time—resides his essential modernity. His writings mean something diff erent to us now, of course, but what remains central is their capacity to stimulate thought and to ...
PART ONE: THOREAU AND (NON)MODERNITY
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Walking West, Gazing East: Planetarity on the Shores of Cape Cod
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Thoreau’s essay “Walking” has become one of his most canonical texts, and its ringing declaration, “in Wildness is the preservation of the world” (Exc 202), is the founding motto of the American environmental movement. Cape Cod is much less well known, perhaps because where “Walking” rings with triumphal declarations, Cape Cod is uneasy and disquieting. One enters Th oreau’s last ...
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Undoubtedly, in any discussion of “Th oreauvian modernities,” it is some-what provocative to call Th oreau an “antimodern,” but provocation is not out of keeping with this eccentric writer.uniF6DC Th e quotations to be discussed will reveal more than a simple opposition to what was modern in his time: Th oreau was a keen observer of the changes taking place in his society and a most percep-...
Thoreau’s Multiple Modernities
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A paradox.sc attends the very timeliness of Walden, for, in a certain sense, the question of Th oreau and modernity is nothing new. If only implicitly, critics of every era since Th oreau began to publish have addressed his relation to what he described as “this restless, nervous, bustling . . . Nineteenth Century” and to ours (W 329). If there has been little consensus, this is in part because in our ...
Thoreau, Modernity, and Nature’s Seasons
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Although Th oreau was known to the larger public of his own day as a disciple and imitator of Emerson and a hermitlike writer on natural history, his stature has grown steadily over the past century and a half. He is now recognized as an environmental prophet and an early critic of the mania of excessive consump-tion in the emerging American market economy, and his place in the interna-...
An Infinite Road to the Golden Age: A Close Reading of Thoreau’s “Road—that old Carlisle one” in the Late Journal (24 September 1859)
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Thoreau’s Journal entry for 24 September 1859 runs to eight and a half pages in the Torrey- Allen edition—pages and pages of natural history observa-tions interspersed with a few passages of a much more eccentric construction. Th e “old Carlisle road” is the subject of these eccentric passages, particularly the baffl ing 330- word sequence we are examining in this essay.uniF6DC...
PART TWO: THOREAU AND PHILOSOPHY
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“Being Is the Great Explainer”: Thoreau and the Ontological Turn in American Thought
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I borrow my title from Th oreau’s Journal for 26 February 1841 (PJ 1: 273). Th e bold assertion of the explanatory power of being would itself seem to require a bit of explanation, for—strictly speaking—how can being explain anything? Isn’t explanation, aft er all, a properly discursive activity, performed by a human subject? Isn’t Th oreau confusing two distinct orders of reality (or kinds of rela-...
Character and Nature: Toward an Aristotelian Understanding of Thoreau’s Literary Portraits and Environmental Poetics
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Representation is a rich concept when it comes to Th oreau, regarding both his own work as a writer and his judgments of others. It not only pertains natu-rally to political and communal matters but also touches on fundamental rhe-torical and aesthetic concepts of ethos and mimesis. My basic contention, which I will fl esh out in the following, is that a comprehensive reading of Th oreau ...
Thoreau’s Work on Myth: The Modern and the Primitive
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This essay is not a systematic study of mythological references in Th oreau’s works, though I will discuss quite a number of them; instead, the point I wish to make is that, in handling the thorny question of the relevance of ancient myths and mythology for modern times, Th oreau was taking his cue from a number of prior texts at a time when the notion of myth as vehicle of access to transcen-...
“A Sort of Hybrid Product”: Thoreau’s Individualism between Liberalism and Communitarianism
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While spending time in Concord doing research at the Free Public Library, I entered a small bookshop owned by an elderly lady. As I was rummaging through the books, she asked me if I was looking for something specifi c. I an-swered that I was writing a thesis on Th oreau and that I was absorbing the atmosphere of the town to which he was so devoted. Her reply surprised me. ...
PART THREE: THOREAU, LANGUAGE, AND THE WILD
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Nature, Knowledge, and the Method of Thoreau’s Excursions
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In the opening section of “Autumnal Tints,” one of his late natural history essays, Th oreau explains that he will be off ering the reader extracts from notes he had compiled for a book he never managed to complete. Th e book would have consisted of colored reproductions of “a specimen leaf from each chang-ing tree, shrub and herbaceous plant, when it had acquired its brightest char-...
Thoreau’s Radical Empiricism: The Kalendar, Pragmatism, and Science
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Thoreau scholar Perry Miller once famously dismissed Th oreau’s late Journal as “the tedious recordings of mere observations, of measurements, of statistics” attesting to “the dwindling of [Th oreau’s] vitality” and the “exhaus-tion of the theory on which he commenced to be an author in the fi rst place” (“Th oreau” 158–59). Th e theory Miller refers to here is the Transcendental idea ...
“The Maze of Phenomena”: Perception and Particular Knowledge in Thoreau’s Journal
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A footnote from Kant’s Critique of Judgment can serve as a provisional entry point to the set of questions concerning perception and particular scientifi c knowledge that Henry David Th oreau explores in his later Journal. While Kant’s sarcasm is certainly pointed at Linnaeus, he also gives a warning to those who would systematize nature on the basis of particulars: “One may wonder whether ...
Poetics of Thoreau’s Journal and Postmodern Aesthetics
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Henry David Thoreau’s Journal, with its huge dimensions and sustained dedication to recording nature over the entire span of his adult life (it ranges from 22 October 1837 to 3 November 1861), was perhaps his most uncompromis-ing enterprise. Mostly consisting of daily entries recording the protean sweep of nature in his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, the Journal at fi rst sight ap-...
Fraught Ecstasy: Contemporary Encounters with Thoreau’s Postpristine Nature
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Contemporary Canadian graphic design artist and experimental novelist Douglas Coupland shares grave concerns with Henry Th oreau for the devas-tating collision between the environment and the development of industrial capitalism—but not without an abundance of satirical irony exposing the diz-zying contradictions within the culture that caused it. Th e ripple eff ects of this ...
Brute Neighbors: The Modernity of a Metaphor
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The aim of this essay is to study the implications of Th oreau’s metaphor of neighborhood with animals in Walden. What does this anthropomorphic trope tell us about Th oreau’s views on animality and on human- animal relations? Does the choice of “brute” rather than “animal” in “Brute Neighbors” express Th oreau’s sense of human superiority or, on the contrary, his awareness that he, ...
“Tawny Grammar”: Words in the Wild
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Thoreau’s call in “Walking” for the regeneration of European culture in the New World by regrounding it in wild nature can be interpreted within the context of contemporary discourse on America’s Manifest Destiny. However, if Th oreau’s call for a new ecology in this essay is decidedly “modern,” it cannot, as nature, be reduced to the “nation’s nature,” in Perry Miller’s words; on the ...
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Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 4 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013