December 18, 2013
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Posted in: Panel of Experts
[WALDEN; OR, LIFE IN THE WOODS]
Although the first edition gives the title Walden; or, Life in the Woods, on March 4, 1862, two months before he died, T wrote to his publishers, Ticknor & Fields, asking them to omit the subtitle in a new edition. They complied with this request, although it has rarely been followed since. Paul (75) suggests that T may have dropped the subtitle because he feared his audience was taking it too literally and thus missing the more important philosophy permeating the book. T could have derived the subtitle from his friend Charles Lane’s essay “Life in the Woods” in the Dial (IV, 1844, 415) or from John S. Williams, “Our Cabin; or, Life in the Woods” in the October 1843 American Pioneer (DeMott), but not from the then popular The Adirondack; or Life in the Woods, by J.T. Headley (New York, 1849), which did not appear until after T had used the subtitle in an advertisement for W in the back pages of the first edition of A Week. For a comprehensive study of the types of books on which T based the structure of W, see Linck Johnson. For a discussion of the organic structure of W, see Lane (1960). Kurtz is one o the most straightforward analyses of W’s style.
Posted in: General Discussion
Is there any possibility of Thoreau borrowing from the Christian tradition and positing “the woods” as a corollary of “wilderness”, where the demons (in us) are often portrayed and living? To reach one’s “higher self”, one must wake up inwardly to those elements that lead the soul (psychological and emotional state) astray.
In his new book, Cryptic Subtexts in Literature and Film: Secret Messages and Buried Treasure (New York: Routledge, 2019), Steven F. Walker offers a new interpretation of Walden’s 1854 subtitle, “Life in the Woods.” It is well known that that subtitle was hardly original, having appeared in several publications prior to the publication of Walden, including an article of that name by Charles Lane which appears in the final issue of The Dial. Walker grants that Thoreau may have used the title “ironically,” that is, “as a vigorous rejoinder to the thesis of Lane’s Dial essay” (13). More intriguing, however, is Walker’s argument that Thoreau may have associated “life in the woods” with a phase of life known in Hindu as “vanaprastha” (literally translated as “life in the woods”)—“the third stage of life—that of the solitary, contemplative hermit living in the forest on the outskirts of the village—as described in The Laws of Manu” (14) which Thoreau read in Emerson’s library in 1840. “Such a new framing,” Walker says, “certainly provides a new perspective on Thoreau’s life-in-the-woods enterprise, which, for all its Yankee originality, also can be seen as a spiritual retreat based on an ancient Hindu paradigm of the stages of life” (16).
Paragraph 1: Last semester I took Professor Cooper’s English 368 Connections in Recent Literature: Unplugged and ParaDigitial class and examined the relationship between books and technology. On the first day of class, we talked about how Thoreau was actually much closer to civilization than it seems in his writing. Although I cannot find the original map that I saw on my first day of class, this map also demonstrates that even though Thoreau was somewhat “tucked away” he was still decently close to civilization. He talks about occasionally catching people off the train to hear the town’s gossip, something he cannot resist. He also mentions occasionally wandering into town for the human connection that he sometimes yearned for. I believe that this is an interesting point to bring into his first chapter “Economy” because he talks to the reader about how he builds his own house that is meant to be so distant from society but in reality it is quite the opposite. This relates strongly to technology today because even people that claim they want to be distant from the innovations we are creating as a society are still somehow connected to technology in some way. Technology has a huge influence on our society and there is almost no way of having total seclusion from the world or from the devices we have invented and are still working on today.
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The drawing of T’s cabin was made by his sister Sophia, an amateur artist. T himself complained of it, “Thoreau would suggest a little alteration, chiefly in the door, in the wide projection of the roof at the front; and that the bank more immediately about the house be brought out more distinctly” (Sanborn, 1917, 338). Sanborn adds, “He must have noticed that her trees were first and pines, with a few deciduous tress that did not then grow there.” Ellery Channing thought it a “feeble caricature.” Other contemporary drawings of the cabin may be found in Meltzer and Harding (144-5).
[to wake my neighbors up]
The epigraph is quoted from the second chapter of W. It is omitted from many modern editions, and unfortunately so, for it sets the mood for the whole book. Broderick (1954) points out how this awakening and morning theme is a basic image carried throughout W. A possible source for T’s idea is Orestes Brownson’s statement in his Boston Quarterly Review in 1839 that he “aimed to startle, and made it a point to be as paradoxical and extravagant as he could.”
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February 12, 2020 at 12:53 pm
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October 13, 2022 at 1:16 am
Posted in: Emerson-Thoreau SUNY Geneseo
I am a life long reader of Thoreau Walden. I have translated this book into Persian and published it in Iran too. I would always like to discuss this eternal book with fellow American readers. I love this connection. Here is some food for thought and a good subject for discussion:
We live on a planet. Any life similar to ours must naturally form on a planet. Why then Thoreau is referring to the inhabitants of a star? What form of life is conceivable on a star:
How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments?
March 19, 2022 at 1:10 pm
Okay I have been reading Paradice lost By John Milton, however me though on this line is what if it is an experiment? That is what fascinates me about society is that it is a giant social experiment that we live every day. That we as people have to work together in this world to survive.
February 25, 2022 at 10:30 am
Posted in: SNHUmans
Oftentimes people attribute small homes to a sense of closeness or homeliness. However, Thoreau attributes it to a stuffy environment, one where people can’t voice their thoughts clearly because there isn’t enough room.
February 25, 2022 at 10:27 am
A paragraph full of Greek mythology allusions, the gods he includes are all associated with medicine and healing of some kind. Curiously enough, he doesn’t include Apollo himself, the god of medicine.
February 25, 2022 at 9:58 am
An overview of Thoreau’s minimalist thoughts, he does mention Confucius teachings many times throughout Walden. From there he establishes that in life, a person doesn’t need a strict timetable of their day. Rather, living in the moment and taking your time to meander about is the best way to live.
February 25, 2022 at 1:09 am
The best example of Thoreau’s scientific observations, without his detailed notes we wouldn’t have a good idea of what the environment was like during the 1800s.
February 25, 2022 at 1:04 am
An interesting dialogue between Thoreau and the many poets of the time. The main topic of discussion between the two parties seems to be work, and how much work should be done to receive rewards and favors. In this case, it seems that only a minimal amount should be expected. The poet collects bait for fishing, while the hermit fishes. In the end, the two enjoy each other’s company as friends with the transaction of labor complete.
February 25, 2022 at 12:52 am
A long paragraph describing Walden Pond, it shows Thoreau’s journalistic side very well. He establishes a humble scene for the pond in comparison to the sea, yet still manages to give it a flair that shines in its own way that entices the reader to visit the pond in an instant.
February 25, 2022 at 12:44 am
Thoreau’s view here is very optimistic, with the opinion that people will do no harm if there isn’t an expectation of harm. And in his case, that philosophy has held out. However, one has to ask, with today’s standards in both a moral and societal stance, would that philosophy still hold true?
February 25, 2022 at 12:38 am
In the infinite dark one can find themself and what their place in the world is. Only by disconnecting from what we find familiar can we tread a new path that leads us to the “strangeness of Nature”. What Thoreau means to say is that when we are away from what we know, we can find new things about ourselves in a spiritual sense.
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