Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thoreauly Theoretical

In Monday's American Literature to 1860 class, we worked with Emerson's Nature and "The American Scholar." Tomorrow we are reading chapters from Thoreau's Walden. Reviewing this text is one of the great pleasures of teaching an early American survey because Thoreau seems fresh every time I crack open his pages.

Here's the gem that caught my eye during last night's review:

"With thinking we may be beside ourselves in a sane sense. By a conscious effort of the mind we can stand aloof from actions and their consequences; and all things, good and bad, go by us like a torrent. We are not wholly involved in Nature. I may be either the drift-wood in the stream, or Indra in the sky looking down on it. I may be affected by a theatrical exhibition; on the other hand, I may not be affected by an actual event which appears to concern me much more. I only know myself as a human entity; the scene, so to speak, of thoughts and affections; and am sensible of a certain doubleness by which I can stand as remote from myself as from another."

Not only does Thoreau put his finger precisely on the eco-acupressure point of doubled points of view all in one as constitutive of "Nature," but he strikingly articulates the self as a scene of weird multiplicity. It reads like a D & G scene to use Thoreau's diction.

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