Learning from Thoreau

Title Details

Pages: 192

Illustrations: 14 b&w images

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 05/01/2018

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5343-2

List Price: $26.95

Learning from Thoreau

A way of looking at the modern world from the perspective of Thoreau

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Learning from Thoreau is an intimate intellectual walk with America’s most edgy and original environmentalist. The thrust of the book consists not in learning “about” Thoreau from an intermediary but, as the title suggests, in learning “from” Thoreau along with the author—whose lifelong engagement with this “genius of the natural world” leads him to examine the process of learning from an admired model.

Using both images and text, Andrew Menard offers a personal meditation on Thoreau’s thought, its originality, and its influence on the modern environmental movement. He places Thoreau in dialogue with contemporary artists and thinkers and associates him with a rich variety of places: Walden Pond, the Museum of Modern Art, the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in upstate New York, Mormon Mesa northeast of Las Vegas, and the old town of Königsberg, Prussia. Each place, each experience, each writer, and each work of art provides a different line of approach. The author also leads us through an expanding and deepening series of keywords that trigger fresh occasions to learn from Thoreau: Concord, Walden, walking, seeing, nature, wildness, beauty. The result is a deeply nuanced and informed portrait of Thoreau’s inner and outer landscape.

An inimitable and wholly original meditation on Thoreau, who emerges here as a profoundly modern thinker in his own right. By placing Thoreau in counterpoint with a rich and often surprising array of contemporary writers, philosophers, and artists, Menard takes us on an exhilarating intellectual journey, spiraling upward from intimacy with the earth to the most speculative of prospects. Along the way, he renews our sense of beauty, deepens our capacity for ethical choice, and reminds us how to learn from the very act of learning.

—Laura Dassow Walls, author of Henry David Thoreau: A Life

Thoreau is among America’s most revered and yet also despised writers; he’s also among our most misread and misunderstood. Mercifully, the bicentennial of his birth seems to have summoned forth from writers and scholars books that can help us see Thoreau more clearly and anew, among them this perceptive book-length essay by Andrew Menard. Revisiting Walden and Walden, bringing to both an attentive eye, drawing from a reservoir of knowledge, Menard discovers a protomodernist Thoreau who bears little resemblance to the prickly hermit of slander and lore. Learning from Thoreau eloquently demonstrates that, from Thoreau and of Thoreau, we still have plenty to learn.

—Donovan Hohn, author of Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea

Salient quotes from a spectrum of thinkers, writers, and artists are recruited to illuminate Thoreau … What interests Menard is not to lay down monuments to excellence, however, but rather to investigate what animated Thoreau as a creative artist and naturalist, how he found his sui generis style.

—Henrik Otterberg, Thoreau Society Bulletin

About the Author/Editor

ANDREW MENARD is a writer, artist, and critic, and author of Sight Unseen: How Frémont’s First Expedition Changed the American Landscape. He lives in New York City.