A Thoreau Handbook

A Thoreau Handbook

A Thoreau Handbook

A Thoreau Handbook

Excerpt

Although Henry David Thoreau was once one of America's most neglected authors, modern students have more than made up for the neglect. The scholarly work on Thoreau is prodigious--so prodigious, in fact, that only the extreme specialist can hope to assimilate more than a small part of it. Thoreau's collected works, though not complete, fill twenty large volumes. Walden has been issued in more than 130 different editions. There have been twenty-four book-length biographies published, plus seventeen book-length studies of special phases of his life or works. The periodical articles on Thoreau run into the thousands. James Woodress' recent check list enumerates thirty-two doctoral dissertations on Thoreau; the masters' theses on the subject have never been counted. Little wonder then that the student is easily lost in a seeming morass. As secretary of the Thoreau Society, I receive a constant stream of inquiries asking where particular information on Thoreau can be found, or whether some specific phase of Thoreau's life has yet been studied. I have therefore compiled this handbook in the hope that it may serve as a guide through the welter of Thoreau scholarship, pointing out just what scholarly work has been done, what still needs doing. It is not intended as a substitute for the Thoreau scholarship but as a guide to it.

I have divided this handbook into five sections. Chapter One summarizes Thoreau's life and evaluates the various biographies. Chapter Two discusses each of his individual works. Chapter Three points out the sources of his ideas and attitudes. Chapter Four summarizes his ideas. Chapter Five charts the course of his fame. For quick reference a brief chronology of Thoreau's life and publications has been placed at the beginning. A short check list of the leading bibliographies has been placed at the end. These divisions are necessarily arbitrary, and inevitably there is some repetition. But I have tried through cross references and the index to eliminate as much duplication as possible.

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