Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
 Walden Pond

Historically Thoreau was influential
also Thoreau asked questions about how do we live a meaningful life that are still relevant today

By the 1850s people are beginning to see wilderness as beautiful and as making the U.S. special
A parallel step new ideas about how wilderness is good for us (and be careful to distinguish different versions of that idea)

Thoreau transformed our ideas about wilderness
His ideas grew out of two roots: Unitarianism and Transcendentalism

First Parish
            (Unitarian), Concord, Mass
First Parish (Unitarian), Concord, Massachusetts
  Transcendentalism is a philosophy rather than a religious denomination
Trancendentalist authors
  Transcendentalist authors
Thoreau's life:

Thoreau criticized the direction in which civilization was going, particularly commercialization (first textile factories 1790, big textile factories start to be built in early 1830s, railroads start to be built in large numbers in the 1830s):
The railroad that passed Walden Pond
Thoreau saw nature and particularly wilderness as the inspiration we need if we are to be truly alive
Thoreau's Walden Cabin
Thoreau is not as much a believer in wilderness and only wilderness as some later thinkers, but he is the first influential writer about the value of wilderness

1906 photograph of Walden Pond
1906 Photograph of Walden Pond from a nearby hill
Thoreau ended up wanting a balance between wilderness and civilization
He doesn't take wilderness ideas as far as later thinkers will

Do we believe this today?
more Thoreau
cartoon--chickens in
            factory farm--one says to be happy just be yourself

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
last updated 10/2/09
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