Week 4

Thoreau introduction and resource links walden_or_life_in_the_woods


Reminder: the debate is taking place during our Tuesday class. Please report to the Susquehana room in the HUB


Review the Debate Format and offer some possible propositions for debate. Consult the evidential documents speech-on-campus


Reception of Walden: Reception

Walden or A Life in the Woods received many reviews but its 2000 copies took five years to sell; it was not reprinted during his lifetime. Thoreau died in the shadows, thought of as a minor writing compared to his contemporary friends such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Ellery Channing and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Its revived popularity may be explained in part by the growing perception of the book’s complexity – it can be read on many levels – and to changing political climates, where the challenges to materialism or civil disobedience appeal to readers.

Thoreau Discussion:

Chapter 2

  • What are Henry David Thoreau's attitudes about poverty, wealth, and property?
  • What does HDT seem to mean by referring to his experiment?
  • Can you identify metaphors and allusions to dawn, waking, and morning? What do these suggest?
  • What does this chapter suggest about the virtues or benefits of a sojourn in the woods on the shore of a simple pond?
  • What does it mean to “live deliberately” and what obstacles does HDT seem want to avoid or escape?


For Weds: Read chapters 6-9. Respond to the Thoreau-writing-prompt-03



First Topic: Free speech is not under attack on campus, since protest and objection are extensions of the right to free speech.

Second Topic: Emotion has a place in formal debate and classroom discussion; schools should not seek to regulate it.


Debate Review

Thoreau Discussion

  • Recapitulation of Ch 2, Thoreau's purpose, metaphors of awakening
  • Orienting questions
  • Discussion of Chs 3, 4, 5: Reading, Sounds, Solitute

The discussion question for today asked you to map a theme across several chapters. Let's discuss a few of these, following the course of its progress. Does the idea metamorphose? Is it repeated with a difference? Does it take on different meanings (become more or less clear) as we follow it into new contexts?



Read Chapters 6 Visitors, 8 Villlage, 9 The Ponds (pp 144-59), 10 Baker Farm.

Consider the found poem we created in class last year Link . Select quotes from the four homework chapters, fashion a coherent poem, post and discuss what you reveal about Walden themes.


Form four groups

Found poems

  • read out in groups
  • discuss one as a class


  • What do the passages in each section suggest about Thoreau's project, what kind of knowledge he is seeking, or how he thinks one can access knowledge or truth?

6 Visitors

“I had three chairs … […] One inconvience … getting a sufficient distance … […] 115, If we would enjoy the most intimate society …. we must not only be silent ….” 116

8 Villlage

“As I walked … […] I went their frequently to observe their habits … [137] [...] For the most part I escaped wonderfully … [138] [....] … and so escaped to the woods again [139] [....] One afternoon, near the end of the summer …. I was seized and into jail …. [140]

9 The Ponds (pp 144-59)

“The scenery of Walden .. both water and ice were almost as green as glass …. [144] Some consider blue … Yet a single glass of water held up [145] [ ...] “The pond rises and falls, but whether regularly or not, and within what period, nobody knows, though, as usual, many pretend to know [148] [....] A lake is a landscapes most beautiful and expressive feature…. [152]

10 Baker Farm

” So the Muse fables … John Field, an Irishman …. [167] [....] Meanwhile my host told me his story, how hard he worked at 'bogging' for a neighbor …. I tried to help him with my experience, telling him …. I too … But the only true America is a country where …. [167] [...] John heaved a sign at this, …. both appeared to be wondering … it was sailing by dead reckoning for them …. [168]


Finish Walden. Read chapter 16 Pond in Winter, portion of chapter 17 Spring (252-259), and 18 Conclusion.