Electronic Thesis/Dissertation


Beyond the Book: The Compositional, Lecture, and Publication Histories of Henry David Thoreau's "Walking" Read Ecocritically Open Access

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This dissertation offers an analysis of Thoreau's lecture career that ultimately establishes his success in that role; provides a detailed ecocritical reading of "Walking's" compositional and lecture histories; and analytically synthesizes all known extant information regarding the publication history of "Walking." Chapter one provides an overview of the project and explains the need for an examination of pertinent biographical elements that impacted the development of Thoreau's lecturing and writing. This chapter evidences the need for an ecocritical analysis of the seemingly extra-textual events that arguably served as the crux of the evolution of his work. Chapter two's comprehensive examination of Thoreau's lecturing career calls into question previous scholarship that overwhelmingly considers Thoreau's lecturing career to be quite unsuccessful. Rather, historical and biographical evidence proves that Thoreau achieved more than a modicum of platform success, not the least of which is the literary legacy of his lecture-essays. Chapter three considers the development of his "Walking" lecture-essay, giving particular attention to its environmental significance. An ecocritical, biographical analysis of the compositional and lecture histories of "Walking" evidences the development of Thoreau's ecocentric paradigm. Extant correspondence and Journal passages reveal the symbiotic relationship between Thoreau's writing and lecturing that are the outgrowth of his excursions in nature. Chapter four examines "Walking" beyond Thoreau's lecturing by providing textual publication history from the initial 1862 Atlantic Monthly printing to editions of printed as recently as 2008. In particular, substantive textual emendations that were likely unauthorized, yet still printed in many contemporary editions, are here explored. Through its examination of Thoreau's lecture career, ecocritical reading of the compositional and lecture histories of "Walking," and detailed study of the publication of the essay, this dissertation provides an analysis of heretofore unexplored avenues of Thoreau research that reveal a great deal about the author and his writing. Ecocritically examining Thoreau's world beyond the text evidences biographical elements that impacted the composing, revising, and publication of the essay, and ultimately help to explain the philosophical development of Thoreau's ideas that led to the ecocentric paradigm he outlines in "Walking."

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