Network Mapping & Literature

What does Thoreau mean by “Wilderness” and what impact does Thoreau’s concept of “wilderness” have nonhuman?

  • “Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wilderness-to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground” (205).

How do naturalist authors react to their unhappiness with the state or with politics? Why is this a problem? Why does Emerson criticize Thoreau for his “peter-pan side of himself”?

  • Using the images of the natural world to criticize the state instead of taking some kind of action.
  • Produces the natural world as against the state-privileges it over the state, but makes it an unreal refuge for privileged few who have enough education to appreciate it. Class problem, but also a problem for land and animals because they become not real, just images or edenic.
  • “…of how his pursuit of nature’s charms pulls against his role as a good citizen. So his passage openly confesses to retreat from the arena, as Thoreau’s does not” (466).
  • “On a less conscious level, the passage bears all the telltale marks of the discourse of nature-as-elite-andocentric-preserve: the generative metaphor so redolent of Burroughs’s friend Whitman”
  • Nature as space of male bonding and earth mother being impregnated by men-Yuk!
  • Reflex regression protected by class and gender

What is the impact of the split personality of the American genius of letters? Thoreau is the hermit and the poet, the naturalist and the scholar should these tensions be reconciled? What is the impact of the seeming autobiographical nature of the Walden?

  • On the first page of Walden Thoreau says, “… I, on my side require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives…” (1). Why is Thoreau’s account of his life in the woods is written as a first person narrative?

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Digital Mapping

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