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Thoreaus Sense of Place

Essays in American Environmental Writing

Richard J. Schneider, Lawrence Buell

Publication Year: 2000

" ... a challenging and insightful collection of essays. Each contribution enlarges the reader's understanding of Thoreau and the "green" movement in US writing. o -- P.J. Ferlazzo, Choice Magazine "Schneider's collection of 189 essays on Thoreau's environmental writing enhances the argument, set forth by Buell, that Thoreau articulated the various and occasionally contradictory ways Americans would think about the natural world ...This is a challenging and insightful set of essays."--PJ. Ferlazzo, Choice Magazine "This unique, socholarly collection of essays painstakingly examines the writing of Thoreau, comparing him with other environmental writers and stressing literary scholarship within environmental studies ... (a) lofty collection."--Joyce Sparrow, Library Journal "This is a book at once diverse and thoughtfully coordinated from which, to my pleasure and humility, I've learned much about things I supposed I had already understood."--from the foreword by Lawrence Buell Recent Thoreau studies have shifted to an emphasis on the green" Thoreau, on Thoreau the environmentalist, rooted firmly in particular places and interacting with particular objects. In the wake of Buell's Environmental Imagination, the nineteen essayists in this challenging volume address the central questions in Thoreau studies today: how "green," how immersed in a sense of place, was Thoreau really, and how has this sense of place affected the tradition of nature writing in America? The contributors to this stimulating collection address the ways in which Thoreau and his successors attempt to cope with the basic epistemological split between perceiver and place inherent in writing about nature; related discussions involve the kinds of discourse most effective for writing about place. They focus on the impact on Thoreau and his successors of culturally constructed assumptions deriving from science, politics, race, gender, history, and literary conventions. Finally, they explore the implications surrounding a writer's appropriation or even exploitation of places and objects. CONTRIBUTORS: LAURA DASSOW WALLS WILLIAM ROSSI RICHARD J. SCHNEIDER TED OLSON JAMES A. PAPA, JR. DAVID M. ROBINSON ISAIAH SMITHSON PETER BLAKEMORE J. SCOTT BRYSON JAMES G. MCGRATH BERNARD W. QUETCHENBACH ROCHELLE JOHNSON GREG GARRARD AIMIN CHENG NANCY CRAIG SIMMONS ROBERT SATTELMEYER STEPHEN GERMIC BARBARA "BARNEYo NELSON SUSAN M. LUCAS Richard Schneider is professor of English and Slife Professor in the Humanities at Wartburg College. He is the author of Henry David Thoreau in the Twayne United States Authors series and the editor of Approaches to Teaching Thoreau's "Waldeno and Other Works.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

Thanks are due to Lawrence Buell, who gave me encouragement in developing this book and who put me in touch with Wayne Franklin, editor of the American Land and Life series, to whom thanks are also due for his wisdom and persistence, which gave focus to the project. The Internet listserves provided by both the Thoreau Society and the Association ...

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pp. ix-xii

These essays teach a lesson Henry David Thoreau knew but even good teachers often forget: the enlightenment that comes with discovery worthy of the name means complication more often than consensus. During the past decade, literary scholarship has discovered the environmental(ist) Thoreau. This dimension of his life and work had for ...

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pp. 1-12

In a Journal entry for December 6, 1856, Henry David Thoreau observes that he was "born into the most estimable place in all the world, and in the very nick of time, too."1 Taken out of context, this passage appears to be Thoreau's praise for the special qualities of Concord and its environs. In context, however, it turns out to be just the opposite, an argument ...

I. Relating to Place: "Between Me and It"

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Believing in Nature: Wilderness and Wildness in Thoreauvian Science

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pp. 15-27

"In Wilderness is the preservation of the World"—so runs the oft misquoted line from Thoreau's essay "Walking."1 Why "Wildness" and not "Wilderness," as the line so often appears? What does the difference signify? In context, Thoreau clearly identifies "wildness" not as a distant place but as a quality, something ineffable and strange and raw at the ...

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Thoreau's Transcendental Ecocentrism

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pp. 28-43

As a number of recent critics have argued, while an ecocentric shift in Thoreau's thinking and writing may have begun during his two-year stay at Walden Pond, the deeper process of environmental bonding and the literary effects of it did not become evident before the early 1850s.1 The first fruit, and in many ways the means of sustaining this bond, was ...

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"Climate Does Thus React on Man": Wildness and Geographic Determinism in Thoreau's "Walking"

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pp. 44-60

In his essay "Walking," Henry David Thoreau begins by stating his intention to "speak a word for nature, for absolute freedom and wildness" and to make "an extreme statement . . . an emphatic one," because, he asserts, "there are enough champions of civilization."1 This opening is so rhetorically forceful that readers are immediately inclined to assume that he ...

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"In Search of a More Human Nature": Wendell berry's Revision of Thoreau's Experiment

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pp. 61-69

The first published work to investigate the literary kinship of Henry David Thoreau and Wendell Berry was scholar Herman Nibbelink's 1985 essay "Thoreau and Wendell Berry: Bachelor and Husband of Nature." Asserting that Berry was an intellectual and spiritual disciple of Thoreau, Nibbelink's essay identified several similarities between the two authors—...

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Water-Signs: Place and Metaphor in Dillard and Thoreau

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pp. 70-82

Thoreau's position at the center of American nature writing has been long established, and few writers in the genre escape his influence. Some, such as Joseph Wood Krutch, are quick to acknowledge the debt. Others, such as Edward Abbey, who referred to Thoreau as a "spinster-poet" who "led an unnecessarily constrained existence,"1 attempt for various ...

II. Imaging Place: Finding a Discourse to Match Discovery

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The Written World: Place and History in Thoreau's "A Walk to Wachusett"

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pp. 83-92

Thoreau's development of a sense of place depended upon his developing a form of description for his excursions into nature which would also allow him to elaborate their larger spiritual and ethical significance. Many of his Journal entries have their origins in the observations and meditations that he made during and after walks in the countryside or ...

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Thoreau, Thomas Cole, and Asher Durand: Composing the American Landscape

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pp. 93-114

Thomas Cole (1801–1848) and Asher Durand (1796–1886) constituted the first generation of the Hudson River school of landscape painters. Cole, the "father" of the school, was the artist most responsible for making landscape painting respectable and popular in America; heretofore, only historical paintings had been accepted as "serious art." Durand, an established engraver before turning to painting, introduced to American landscape ...

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Reading Home: Thoreau, Literature, and the Phenomenon of Inhabitation

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pp. 115-132

In the summer of 1851, Henry Thoreau was wrestling with questions about the naturalist's role in the world. His Journal shows how fascinated he had become with the scientific exploration and expeditionary travel writing of such notable scientists as Darwin, Michaux, Gray, and Humboldt. Steeping himself in these works, Thoreau realized something important ...

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Seeing the West Side of Any Mountain: Thoreau and Contemporary Ecological Poetry

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pp. 133-146

We know from his Journal that during the latter part of 1841, a year that proved to be his most prolific period as a poet, Thoreau was simultaneously considering abandoning poetry as a form of expression. According to Elizabeth Hall Witherell, Thoreau consistently "harbored fundamental doubts about both the vigor of poetry as opposed to prose and its suitability ...

III. Socially Constructing Place

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Ten Ways of Seeing Landscapes in Walden and Beyond

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pp. 149-164

The very first vote I cast after being elected to the Missoula City Council in 1995 was to spend $2 million to purchase 1,600 acres of hillside bordering the city to preserve it as open space. An open space bond had passed by a large margin, and the purchase had widespread support. A year later, however, when the city proposed closing access to the land ...

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Sauntering in the Industrial Wilderness

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pp. 165-178

On New Year's Day, 1997, the following prediction appeared in a "crystal ball" article in the Bangor Daily News: "The paper companies will come together to propose the creation of an 1850s theme park in northern Maine, a place where Thoreau will be the hero and we'll all travel by canoe." 1...

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Walden, Rural Hours, and the Dilemma of Representation

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pp. 179-193

When Barry Lopez, surely one of this century's most gifted nature writers, posed the question, "What is a dignified response to the land?," he raised an issue that has been central to nature writers for well over a century.1 How best to represent a physical place, its various and interdependent life forms, and an individual human's response to this place are ...

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Wordsworth and Thoreau: Two Versions of Pastoral

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pp. 194-206

On the very first page of the first edition of Walden, Thoreau issued a challenge: "I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as Chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up." 1 Not for him the sad, meditative perhaps rather effeminate—insomnia of Coleridge, but instead a manly and disruptive ...

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Humanity as "A Part and Parcel of Nature": A Comparative Study of Thoreau's and Taoist Concepts of Nature

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pp. 207-220

A prominent aspect of Thoreau's philosophy of nature, which makes his view different from that of many Americans, is his absorption of the Chinese conception of the relationship between humanity and nature.1 His belief in humanity as "a part and parcel of Nature" clearly demonstrates his affinity with Chinese philosophical tradition. Lin Yutang once ...

IV. Saving Place: Writing as Appropriation or Preservation of Nature

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Speaking for Nature: Thoreau and the "Problem" of "Nature Writing"

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pp. 223-234

At the beginning of the essay "Walking," Thoreau announces, "I wish to speak a word for Nature." Typically this is read as speaking "on behalf of" nature—championing nature, speaking for nature as "cause," as Lawrence Buell puts it in The Environmental Imagination.1 But Thoreau also claims to speak "for" nature in the sense of "in the place of"—of ...

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Depopulation, Deforestation, and the Actual Walden Pond

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pp. 235-243

Like the raft on which Huck Finn and Jim float the Mississippi River, Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond has come to possess a kind of hypercanonical status as cultural icon, both temporary homes figuring a confluence of self and place that suggests an ideal if unattainable American existence for the individual in harmony with nature. While the raft is ...

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Skirting Lowell: The Exceptional Work of Nature in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

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pp. 244-253

According to Emerson, visions of nature are privileges of the poet. "To speak truly," he submits in the first chapter of Nature, "few adult persons can see nature." 1 Emerson goes so far as to name those, his neighbors, who see and own nature's parts, but not nature itself: "Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them ...

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Rustling Thoreau's Cattle: Wilderness and Domesticity in "Walking"

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pp. 254-265

While teaching a new class called "Environmental Literature" at small, rural Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, I was about to assign Henry David Thoreau's 1862 classic essay "Walking." One of the textbooks I had chosen for the class, American Environmentalism: Readings in Conservation History edited by Roderick Frazier Nash, contained a ...

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Counter Frictions: Writing and Activism in the Work of Abbey and Thoreau

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pp. 266-280

In American nature writing, two of the most vehement, influential voices to inspire environmental activism belong to Henry David Thoreau and Edward Abbey. Though writing a century apart and about different regions, Abbey and Thoreau openly advocate individual resistance to institutional oppression through jeremiadic rhetoric and acts of civil disobedience. ...


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pp. 281-284

Works Cited

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pp. 285-300


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pp. 301-310

The American Land and Life Series

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pp. 311-312

E-ISBN-13: 9781587293115
E-ISBN-10: 1587293110
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877457206
Print-ISBN-10: 0877457204

Page Count: 324
Publication Year: 2000

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Nature in literature.
  • Setting (Literature).
  • Thoreau, Henry David, -- 1817-1862 -- Knowledge -- Natural history.
  • Place (Philosophy) in literature.
  • American literature -- History and criticism.
  • Natural history -- United States -- History.
  • Environmental protection -- United States -- History.
  • Thoreau, Henry David, -- 1817-1862 -- Influence.
  • Environmental protection in literature.
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