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Thoreau'sPsychology JohnHildebilde. Thoreau: A Naturalist's Liberty. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983. 174+ viii pp. SamuelArthur Jones. Thoreau Amongst Friends and Philistines andOther Thoreauviana. Edited by George Hendrick. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1982. 241 + xxvipp. Richard Lebeaux. Thoreau sSeasons. Amherst: Universityof Massachusetts Press, 1984. 410 + xviii pp. Jerome Loving. Emerson, Whitman, and the American Muse.Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1982. 220 + xii pp. Henry D. Thoreau. The Illustrated A Week on the Concord andMerrimack Rivers. With Photographs from the Gleason Collection. Edited by Carle F.Hovde, William L. Howarth, and Elizabeth Hall Witherell. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. 415 + xxxvipp. Roderick W Harvey In his chapter in Walden called "Reading," Thoreau comments: "To read well,that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that willtax the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem."1 Whether he would have been gratified by the plethora of critical studies of his own work, however, is another question. Since Thoreau is now a cultural as well as a literary figure, critics of recent years have not been reluctant to offer new interpretations of his life and thought in the light of changing critical fashions. A look at the evolution of fairly recent criticism on Thoreau will bring us to the books that are the subject of this review.Ten yearsago much of this criticism either viewed Thoreau as a Transcendentalist or simply related his philosophy to the landscape he described so well. In Thoreauand Whitman: A Study of their Esthetics (1968),Charles R. Metzger explored links with both Whitman and Emerson, a technique used by many ofthe older Thoreau critics and recently found in Jerome Loving's Emerson, Whitman, and the American Muse, a book I cannot recommend because of its confusing organization and lack of attention to any single figure. The romanticThoreau, the writer who found unity between thought and landscape, iswell presented in James McIntosh's Thoreau as Romantic Naturalist: His Shifting Stance Toward Nature (1974). Recent criticism of Thoreau tends to be psychologically oriented, though the more conventional biographers still prefer to view the Journals as representations of a fairly stable inner life. Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 17,Number 2, Summer 1986,211-217 212 Roderick W Harvey Edward Wagenknecht'sHenry David Thoreau: What Manner of Man?(1981) and William Howarth's The Book of Concord: Thoreau sLife as a Writer (1982) are examples of recent biographical-critical studies. Yet the most interesting recent books on Thoreau, I find, are those in which psychological theories are used to explore the personality and work of a writer who remains, in spite of all the criticism, deeply elusive. Frederick Garber, for example, recently focused on the writer's individual consciousness in Thoreau's Redemptive Imagination (1977); and in Dark Thoreau (1982), Richard Bridgman argues that Thoreau was in fact a "deeply pessimistic man" witha "hostile, punishing streak." 2 Perhaps the most interesting critic to take this approach is Richard Lebeaux, whose Young Man Thoreau (1977)is basically a psychological analysis of Thoreau's life through his writing. Using Erik Erikson and Robert Coles as sources, Lebeaux analyzes the Journals and Waldento present a complex picture of a writer whose psychological makeup seems more complicated than other studies would indicate. Lebeaux continues this approach in Thoreau's Seasons, a book which isa portrait of Thoreau from the beginning of the Walden experiment (1845) until his death in 1862. Quoting extensively-sometimes, for my taste, too extensively-from the Journals and other writings, Lebeaux extends his psychological analysis to include the theories explored in Daniel J. Levinson,s The Seasons of a Man's Life, which was published in 1978, a year after Lebeaux's first study had appeared. Levinson's pioneering study was largely based onthe theories ofErikson and provided the foundation for Gail Sheehy's bestselling Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. In 1966-67, Levinson and his interdisciplinary research group at Yale began a project on adult development, using as a metaphor the changing of the seasons: "To speak of seasons isto say that the lifecourse has a certain...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 211-217
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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