A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau

A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau

A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau

A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau

Synopsis

The writings of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) have captivated scholars, activists, and ecologists for more than a century. Less attention has been paid, however, to the author's political philosophy and its influence on American public life. Although Thoreau's doctrine of civil disobedience has long since become a touchstone of world history, the greater part of his political legacy has been overlooked. With a resurgence of interest in recent years, A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau is the first volume focused exclusively on Thoreau's ethical and political thought. Jack Turner illuminates the unexamined aspects of Thoreau's political life and writings. Combining both new and classic essays, this book offers a fresh and comprehensive understanding of Thoreau's politics, and includes discussions of subjects ranging from his democratic individualism to the political relevance of his intellectual eccentricity. The collection consists of works by sixteen prominent political theorists and includes an extended bibliography on Thoreau's politics. A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau is a landmark reference for anyone seeking a better understanding of Thoreau's complex political philosophy.

Excerpt

Those who undertake a study of American political thought must attend to the great theorists, philosophers, and essayists. But such a study is incomplete, however, if it neglects American literature, one of the greatest repositories of the nation’s political thought and teachings.

America’s literature is distinctive because it is, above all, intended for a democratic citizenry. in contrast to eras when an author would aim to inform or influence a select aristocratic audience, in democratic times, public influence and education must resonate with a more expansive, less leisured, and diverse audience to be effective. the great works of America’s literary tradition are the natural locus of democratic political teaching. Invoking the interest and attention of citizens through the pleasures afforded by the literary form, many of America’s great thinkers sought to forge a democratic public philosophy with subtle and often challenging teachings that unfolded in narrative, plot, and character development. Perhaps more than any other nation’s literary tradition, American literature is ineluctably political—shaped by democracy as much as it has in turn shaped democracy.

The Political Companions to Great American Authors series highlights the teachings of the great authors in America’s literary and belletristic tradition. An astute political interpretation of America’s literary tradition requires careful, patient, and attentive readers who approach the text with a view to understanding its underlying messages about citizenship and democracy. Essayists in this series approach the classic texts not with a “hermeneutics of suspicion” but with the curiosity of fellow citizens who believe that the . . .

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