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Walden. Henry David Thoreau. Academic Vocabulary.

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Henry David Thoreau

academic vocabulary
Academic Vocabulary
  • Transcendentalism - an idealistic philosophical and social movement that developed in New England around 1836 in reaction to rationalism. Influenced by romanticism, Platonism, and Kantian philosophy, it taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity, and its members held progressive views on feminism and communal living. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were central figures. (What does any of that mean?)
  • A movement in nineteenth-century American literature and thought. It called on people to view the objects in the world as small versions of the whole universe and to trust their individual intuitions. The two most noted American transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
  • In your own words, combine these two into one definition. Pull apart the tough stuff and piece it together.
henry david thoreau 1817 1862
Henry David Thoreau(1817- 1862)
  • an American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, sage writer and philosopher.
  • He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.
  • Born in a common family in New England
  • Graduated from Harvard, but only stayed at home and helped family business
  • A friend of Emerson
  • Active in social life and had a strong sense of justice (Example: He once refused to pay a poll-tax of 2 dollars because he felt the tax was unfair, and thus he was jailed. And later he wrote an essay named "Civil Disobedience" which advocated passive resistance to unjust laws and influenced Gandhi in India.(甘地的非暴力不合作运动)
  • not successful as a writer and lived in obscurity all his life
background information about walden
Background information about Walden

A reproduction of Thoreau's cabin with a statue of Thoreau

background information about walden1
Background information about Walden
  • The book details Thoreau's sojourn in a cabin near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts.
  • Thoreau did not intend to live as a hermit, for he received visitors and returned their visits. Instead, he hoped to isolate himself from society in order to gain a more objective understanding of it.
  • Simple living and self-sufficiency were Thoreau's other goals, and the whole project was inspired by transcendentalist philosophy, which was one of the key ideas of the American Romantic Period. As Thoreau made clear in his book, his cabin was not in wilderness but at the edge of town, not far from his family home.

Walden emphasizes the importance of self-reliance, solitude, contemplation, and closeness to nature in transcending the "desperate" existence that, he argues, is the lot of most humans.

walden in pop culture
“Walden” in Pop Culture
  • Thoreau in Dead Poet’s Society: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u69aRPRIfsk
  • 7 Little Remembered Facts about Thoreau http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-sims/thoreau-facts_b_4810246.html
the teacher the student
The Teacher/The Student
  • If Emerson was the Master of Transcendentalism, then Thoreau was the apprentice.

Then that would make me…Thoreau?

I’d be Emerson

from walden
From “Walden”
  • We’re going to be reading from an excerpt of an excerpt of “Walden, (Pgs. 175-177)” the journal/essay/writing of Henry David Thoreau’s time at Walden Pond.
questions to answer
Questions to answer
  • Skim through the rest of the Excerpts. How did Emerson organize Walden? How do you feel about how Thoreau organized Walden?
  • What is the relationship between Thoreau’s Walden and Emerson’s writing?
  • This contains Thoreau’s most famous quote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” What do you think Thoreau meant by this? How does this fit in with the Transcendentalists’ views?
  • Thoreau talks about how people live “in quiet desperation.” What do you think that means? Do you feel that this is true? Why or why not?
  • Compare “Walden” to the video “YOLO” that we watched in class. What do you think caused The Lonely Island to make this video and how is it a reaction to Transcendentalism?