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Thoreau’s Legacy

June 11, 2010

Thoreau lives on, as you might have heard or experienced. Walden has an influence beyond the relatively small shores of the pond. Makes sense, of course, if you recall what Thoreau claims for the pond (earth’s eye; mingling with Ganges). Buell indicates that Thoreau leads to Muir; we will see him in Dillard’s experiment–possibly in some form in much of what we read. There are also some more recent cases: Into the Wild, Grizzly Man. I have started to track places where Thoreau’s name comes up, and have linked a handful below. I would be curious to see what you come across.

A high school classroom in the woods, modeled on Thoreau’s Walden.

A center for sustainability that uses Thoreau’s name and spirit–though don’t see to much other direct reference to his writing.

A collection of American stories about global warming published by the Union of Concerned Scientists–and titled, Thoreau’s Legacy.

Project Thoreau: an experiment in permaculture living–seems to be modeled on updating versions of Thoreau’s experiment in simplicity.

Another experiment, this one Tiny Free House, modeled on Thoreau.

Don Henley’s Walden Woods Project.

By the way, here is the image from Memento–the example of ‘mise en abyme’ we discussed last class. This can be thought of as a good example of an overly metonymic representation–since the ‘story within a story’ or ‘frame within a frame’ aspect involves photographic imagery: so, a photograph in a film (which is made up of photographic images) about a photograph in a film. We end up with all context. It makes me think of Thoreau observing the sand bank: where the differences between human and natural meld into the context of “all the properties” of nature. The question we will need to consider as we go on: can or should this be a model for “natural” or environmental writing? Can or should the verbal representation (a pond, a place, whatever) flow like thawing, excrementitious sand, such that we don’t know that we are reading a book? That might get us closer to a truly biodegradable book, but can we read it?

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