First published in 1854, Walden; or, Life in the Woods became one of the most notable works of the American Transcendentalists and one of the founding documents of American natural history. What began as a social experiment—Thoreau’s resolve to live simply and reflectively on a plot of land owned by his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson—became a literary project, nothing less than an epic prose poem on the sublimity of nature and the place of humans in that nature. In this seminar, we will follow Thoreau through his year, as recorded in Walden, and explore carefully the richness of Thoreau’s writing, its place in the Transcendentalist movement, and its relevance to our world today.
Guide: Christopher Zinn was educated at Georgetown and New York University. An independent literature scholar, he has taught at Reed College and the Oregon College of Art and Craft. He currently teaches humanities at the Portland Waldorf High School.