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Henry David Thoreau 大卫梭罗

Henry David Thoreau 大卫梭罗


Henry David Thoreau Nathaniel Hawthorne
October 13, 2008

Agenda
1. Thoreau: Brief Introduction and a Summary of Related Researches 2. Comments on Previous Assignments 3. Hawthorne: Brief Introduction and Reading Assignments

1. Henry David Thoreau (1)
1817-1862, American writer, philosopher, and naturalist, whose work demonstrates how the abstract ideals of libertarianism and individualism can be effectively instilled in a person's life.

1. Henry David Thoreau (2)

1. Henry David Thoreau (3)
He was born in Concord, Massachusetts. From 1841 to 1843 Thoreau lived in the home of American essayist and transcendental philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1845 Thoreau moved to a crude hut on the shores of Walden Pond, where he devoted his time to studying nature, meditating on philosophical problems, reading classic literature, and holding long conversations with his neighbors.

1. Henry David Thoreau (4)
Only two of Thoreau's works were published during his lifetime: A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849) and Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854). A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is the narrative of a boating trip that Thoreau took with his brother in 1839. In Walden, his most enduring and popular work, Thoreau explains his motives for living apart from society and devoting himself to a simple lifestyle and to the observation of nature.

1. Henry David Thoreau (5)
In 1846 Thoreau chose to go to jail rather than to support the Mexican War (18461848) by paying his poll tax. He clarified his position in his essay, “Civil Disobedience” (1849), in which he also discussed passive resistance, a method of protest that later was adopted by Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, and by civil rights activists in the United States.

1. Henry David Thoreau (6)
Studies on Thoreau 王光林:《美国的梭罗研究》,《华东师 范大学学报》(哲学社会科学版),2006 年第6期,第99-103+117页。 陈爱华:《梭罗在中国:1949至2005》, 《四川外语学院学报》,2007年第2期,第 42-45页。

2. Comments on Assignments (1)
1. How did Puritanism influence the literature of colonial America? Cite examples to illustrate your points of view. Most of the well-known authors during this period were Puritans. Their writings showed clear influences of Puritanism both in their contents and styles. American Puritanism stressed predestination, original sin, total depravity, and limited atonement from God’s grace. Such Puritan thoughts can be easily found in the writings of John Winthrop and John Cotton.

Anne Bradstreet is another example. Her most deeply felt poetry also concerned the arduous life of the early settlers. She used her poetry to examine her religious struggles. “The Flesh and the Spirit” (1678) describes the conflict she felt between living a pleasant life and living a Christian life, and “Meditations Divine and Moral” (written 1669?; published 1867) recounts to her children her doubts about Puritanism. With regard to the style of their writings, the style is fresh, simple and direct; the rhetoric is plain and honest, which can be traced to the direct influence of the Bible. This were obvious reflections of the Puritan life style.

2. Comments on Assignments (2)
2. According to your understanding of the text, what is nature to man? What are the similarities and differences between nature and man? How do you understand the “occult relation between man and the vegetable”? Nature shows the omnipresence of God. Nature is the plantations of God. Through nature, man returns to reason and faith.

Both nature and man are created by God and reflect God’s presence. Thus, there is “an occult relation between man and the vegetable”, and they can understand each other well. But it is only in man, or in a harmony of nature and man, that God’s power is fully revealed.

2. Comments on Assignments (3)
3. How do you understand “I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all”? How does it happen? Completely immersed in nature, man will feel oneself as part or particle of God, and acquire God’s eyes, which can see all. In the meantime, as God is invisible and transparent, man also become “nothing”, which is invisible to physical eyes and visible and sensible to mental eyes only.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1)
1804-1864), American novelist, whose works are deeply concerned with the ethical problems of sin, punishment, and atonement.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (2)
He was born in Salem, Massachusetts. After the failure of his first novel Fanshawe (1828), several of his stories were published in Twice-Told Tales (1837), which established Hawthorne as a leading writer. These early works are largely historical sketches and symbolic and allegorical tales dealing with the effects of Puritanism on colonial New England.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (3)
In 1841 he briefly joined the experimental communal society at Brook Farm near Boston. In 1842 he married Sophia Amelia Peabody and settled in Concord, Massachusetts, where he wrote a number of tales that were later published as Mosses from an Old Manse (1846). They include “Rappaccini's Daughter,” and “Young Goodman Brown,” tales in which Hawthorne's preoccupation with the effects of pride, guilt, sin, and secrecy are explored through symbolism and allegory.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (4)
In 1846 Hawthorne became surveyor of the Salem customhouse. By then he had already begun writing The Scarlet Letter (1850), a novel about the adulterous Puritan Hester Prynne. Regarded as his masterpiece and as one of the classics of American literature, The Scarlet Letter reveals both Hawthorne's superb craftsmanship and the powerful psychological insight with which he probed guilt and anxiety in the human soul.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (5)
In 1850 Hawthorne moved to Lenox, where he wrote several works, including The House of the Seven Gables (1851), in which he traced the decadence of Puritanism in an old New England family. During a short stay in West Newton, Massachusetts, he produced The Blithedale Romance (1852), a novel inspired by his life at Brook Farm.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (6)
In 1852 Hawthorne returned to Concord, where he wrote a campaign biography of his college friend Franklin Pierce. After Pierce's election to the United States presidency, he rewarded Hawthorne with the consulship at Liverpool, England. In 1858 and 1859 Hawthorne lived in Italy, collecting material for his novel The Marble Faun (1860). Hawthorne's later works include the unfinished novel Septimius Felton (1872), and his American Notebooks (1868).

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (7)
With modern psychological insight Hawthorne probed the secret motivations in human behavior. He explored the guilt and anxiety that grew out of sins against humanity and asserted that emotional and intellectual ambivalence was inseparable from the Puritan heritage of America.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (8)
Hawthorne characterized most of his books as romances, a category of literature not as strictly bound to realistic detail as novels. This approach freed him to represent symbolically the passions, emotions, and anxieties of his characters and to expose “the truth of the human heart” that he believed lies hidden beneath mundane daily life.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne (9)
Reading Assignments: 1. Comment on any one of the four major characters briefly. 2. What does the scarlet letter “A” stand for at the beginning and in the end?


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