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Thoreau has come to be canonized in a variety of ways
Old 11-06-2019
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Thoreau has come to be canonized in a variety of ways

1.Thoreau has come to be canonized in a variety of ways: Leo Marx gives us a complex, solipsistic Thoreau, the pastoral writer. Roderick Frazier Nash and Max Oelschlaeger gave us a heroic Thoreau, the “philosopher of wilderness.” William Cronon and Michael Pollan defrocked the heroic philosopher in the 1980s and 1990s, and instead gave us Thoreau, the dangerous ideologue. Then there is Thoreau the subversive scientist and protoecologist searching for interconnection pioneered by Donald Worster, Daniel Botkin, and Laura Dassow Walls. See Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (London: Oxford University Press, 1976), 244–65; Roderick Frazier Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 4th ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 84–95; Max Oelschlaeger, “Henry David Thoreau: Philosopher of the Wilderness,” in The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), 133–71; William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, 20th anniversary ed. (New York: Hill and Wang, 2003), esp. chap. 1, “The View from Walden”; and Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” in Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, ed. William Cronon (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1996), 71, 74–75; Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (New York: Delta Trade Paperbacks, 1991); Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 59–76; Daniel B. Botkin, No Man’s Garden: Thoreau and a New Vision for Civilization and Nature (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2001); and Laura Dassow Walls, Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995). ↩

2.Until very recently Thoreau’s surveying activities were considered quaint at best, and at worst a distraction from his real work — writing — if they were acknowledged at all. For reevaluations of Thoreau’s surveying work, see Albert F. McLean Jr., “Thoreau’s True Meridian: Natural Fact and Metaphor,” American Quarterly 20, no. 3 (Autumn, 1968): 567–79; Rick Van Noy, Surveying the Interior: Literary Cartographers and the Sense of Place (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2003), esp. chap. 2, “Surveying the Strange: Henry David Thoreau’s Intelligence of Place,” 38–72; Leslie Perrin Wilson (curator at the Concord Free Public Library and an incredibly generous scholar of all things Concord), “Thoreau’s Manuscript Surveys: Getting Beyond the Surface,” The Concord Saunterer, n.s., 15 (2007): 24–35; John Hessler, “From Ortelius to Champlain: The Lost Maps of Henry David Thoreau,” The Concord Saunterer, n.s., 18 (2010): 1–26; Sarah Luria, “Thoreau’s Geopoetics,” in Geohumanities: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place, Michael Dear, Jim Ketchum, Sarah Luria, and Douglas Richardson, eds. (New York: Routledge, 2011). Patrick Chura is the dean of Thoreau the Surveyor. See his “Economic and Environmental Perspectives in the Surveying ‘Field Notes’ of Henry David Thoreau,” The Concord Saunterer, n.s., 15 (2007): 36–63, and Thoreau the Land Surveyor (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010), which is the benchmark study of Thoreau’s surveying practice. ↩

3.Brian Donahue, The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial New England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), xv, 99–100, 155, passim. ↩

4.For a detailed investigation of the long history of conflict over the Merrimack River watershed, see Theodore Steinberg, Nature Incorporated: Industrialization and the Waters of New England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). For a history of the struggle over the Concord River, see Brian Donahue, “‘Dammed at Both Ends and Cursed in the Middle’: The ‘Flowage’ of the Concord River Meadows, 1798–1862,” Environmental Review 13, nos. 3–4 (Fall–Winter 1989): 47–68, The most detailed accounting of the history of the debate over Concord’s water, and of Thoreau’s data collection, is Robert M. Thorson, The Boatman: Henry David Thoreau’s River Years (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017). ↩

5.For the Concord Farmers’ Club, see the records of the Concord Farmers’ Club, held by the William Monroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library. ↩

6.See Leo Marx, “Does Improved Technology Mean Progress?” Technology Review 90 (Jan. 1987): 34, 71; Steven Stoll, Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Hill and Wang, 2002); Philip J. Pauly, Fruits and Plains: The Horticultural Transformation of America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); David E. Nye, America as Second Creation: Technology and Narratives of New Beginnings (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 4, 11, 14, passim; and Scott A. Sandage, Born Losers: A History of Failure in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). ↩

7.The American factory system had gotten its start in early 1820s with the famous Lowell mills on the Merrimack River, just upstream from the spot where the smaller Concord joined its faster-flowing cousin. ↩

8.Donahue, “‘Dammed at Both Ends,’” 54–55. ↩

9.Donahue, Great Meadow, esp. chap. 9, “Epilogue: Beyond the Meadows,” 221–34. ↩

10.Patrick Chura argues that Thoreau first learned to survey when he and his brother John taught the subject in the school they ran, sometime between 1839 and 1841, and Thoreau’s chief biographer, Walter Harding, notes that in 1840 Thoreau purchased two surveying instruments for use in the school he and his brother John had opened two years earlier. See Chura, “Economic and Environmental Perspectives,” 38; Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau: A Biography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), 83–84. ↩

11.Thoreau was even in personal communication with one of the nation’s foremost astronomers, William Cranch Bond, the head of the Harvard Observatory, on the subject of terrestrial magnetism. Henry D. Thoreau, “‘Lovering and Bond on Mag. Observation at Cambridge,’ Am. Acad. 1846.” n.d., MS, HDTP (Henry David Thoreau Papers 1836–1862, William Monroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library), vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 9; William C. Bond to Thoreau, “Diurnal Magnetic variation . . .” June 9, 1851, MS, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 9; Henry David Thoreau, “[Scene at?] the Cam. Observatory and Library,” n.d., MS, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 9. ↩

12.Only a fragment of the letter hiring Thoreau survives. See Simon Brown, David Heard, John W. Simonds, and Samuel H. Rhoades to Thoreau, June 4, 1859, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 6. The Joint Special Committee issued a fascinating report a year later. See Report of the Joint Special Committee upon the Subject of the Flowage of Meadows on Concord and Sudbury Rivers (Boston: William White, Printer to the State, 1860). ↩

13.Committee of the Proprietors of Sudbury and Concord River Meadows, River Meadow Committee for the Town of. . . 1859, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 6. ↩

14.Henry David Thoreau, JAM (Journal: Autograph Manuscript, April 8, 1859–September 21, 1859, MS. MA 1302.35, Morgan Library), July 5 and July 12. ↩

15.Brown to Thoreau, June 4, 1859; Henry David Thoreau, The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, eds. Walter Harding and Carl Bode (New York: New York University Press, 1958), 522; David Heard to Thoreau, July 1, 1859, MS, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 7; Jon. A. Hill to Thoreau, July 25, 1859, MS, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 7; C. C. Thackford to Thoreau, n.d. [1859?], HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 7; Henry David Thoreau, Miscellaneous notes from river survey and statistics on the back of an envelope addressed to “Henry D. Thoreaux” [1858–1859?], MS, HDTP, vault A35, unit 1, box 1, folder 6; Thoreau, JAM, June 24 and July 14. ↩

16.Henry David Thoreau, Notes on Bridges, n.d. [1858–1859?], MS, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 6; Henry David Thoreau, Draft of Statistics of the Bridges over Concord River, 1859, MS, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 5. For the final version, see Henry David Thoreau, Statistics of the Bridges over Concord River, between Heard’s Bridge and Billerica Dam, Obtained June 22nd, 23rd, & 24th 1859; The Level of the Water at Concord in the Meantime, not having Varied One Inch from about 3 Feet Above Summer Level, 1859, HDTS (Henry David Thoreau Surveys, William Monroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library). ↩

17.Ralph Waldo Emerson to Elizabeth Hoar, Aug. 3, 1859, Morgan Library. After Thoreau’s death, Emerson was asked to write a biographical sketch for an edition of Thoreau’s writings called Excursions. Perhaps feeling that he had spoken ungenerously toward Thoreau on too many occasions — including, famously, during his eulogy for his deceased erstwhile student — Emerson used the occasion to cast a different, kinder view of Thoreau’s river survey: “Mr. Thoreau dedicated his genius with such entire love to the fields, hills, and waters of his native town, that he made them known and interesting to all reading Americans, and to people over the sea. The river on whose banks he was born and died he knew from its springs to its confluence with the Merrimack. He had made summer and winter observations on it for many years, and at a every hour of the day and the night. The result of the recent survey of the Water Commissioners appointed by the State of Massachusetts he had reached by his private experiments, several years earlier. Every fact which occurs in the bed, on the banks, or in the air over it … were all known to him, and, as it were, townsmen and fellow-creatures; so that he felt an absurdity or violence in any narrative of one of these by itself apart, and still more of its dimensions on an inch-rule, or in the exhibition of its skeleton, or the specimen of a squirrel or a bird in brandy. He liked to speak of the manners of the river, as itself a lawful creature, yet with exactness, and always to an observed fact.” See Emerson, “Thoreau,” in The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Mary Oliver (New York: Modern Library, 2000), 816. ↩

18.Charles Davies, LL.D, Elements of Surveying, and Navigation; With a Description of the Instruments and the Necessary Tables, rev. ed. (New York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1847), in William Monroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library. ↩

19.Lewis M. Haupt, The Topographer, His Instruments and Methods. Designed for the use of Students, Amateur Topographers, Surveyors, Engineers, and All Persons Interested in the Location and Construction of Works Based Upon Topography. Illustrated with Numerous Plates, Maps, and Engravings (New York: J. M. Stoddart, 1883), xiii. The larger cultural dimensions underlying scientific practice has long been one of the mainstays of science and technology studies and history of science. Relevant works include Nathan Reingold, Science, American Style (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991); Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, “The Image of Objectivity,” Representations 40 (1992): 81–128,; Robert E. Kohler, Landscapes and Labscapes: Exploring the Lab-Field Border in Biology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007); and Steven Shapin’s magnificent collection of essays, Never Pure: Historical Studies of Science as If It Was Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture, and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010). ↩

20.I should note that not every instance of the grid runs perfectly east-west (for instance, much of Manhattan, with the exception of parts of Tribeca, SoHo, the West Village, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side, runs from the southeast to the northwest, to more perfectly square the island). ↩

21.Although we like to think that Daniel Boone always migrated west in search of solitude, he was a failed surveyor and land speculator, and it seems that he moved west continually in search of clear title to a piece of land. See John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992), 240–49. ↩

22.Andro Linklater points out that one of the democratic aspects of the quadralinear grid was that it was easy for anyone with a basic knowledge of how a compass worked to pace out his boundaries. See his Measuring America: How the United States Was Shaped by the Greatest Land Sale in History (New York: Plume, 2002), 169. ↩

23.This is one of the key insights of critical, poststructural readings of cartography, and extends beyond American history. See, for example, Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1994); Matthew Edney, Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765–1843 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); D. Graham Burnett, Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); J. B. Harley, The New Nature of Maps: Essays in the History of Cartography, ed. Paul Laxton (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), and Raymond Craib’s excellent, Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004). ↩

24.Horkheimer and Adorno point out that abstraction paved the way for the monetization of everything — nature, human bodies, and culture. See Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, ed. Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), 9, 12, passim. My thinking on the commodity is rooted more generally in Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (1867; repr., London: Penguin Classics, 1990), esp. “Part One: Commodities and Money,” 125–244. ↩

25.William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1991), 102, 114–23; Boutmy quoted on 53–55. ↩

26.Linklater, Measuring America, 149–50. ↩

27.Harding, Days of Henry Thoreau, 276–77. ↩

28.Thoreau, “Field Notes,” 69; Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen, eds. (New York: Dover, 1962), 1:270. ↩

29.“What the map cuts up, the story cuts across,” writes Michel de Certeau. “Stories thus carry out a labor that constantly transforms places into spaces or spaces into places. They also organize the play of changing relationships between places and spaces.” Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 117, 129. ↩

30.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:247. ↩

31.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:579. ↩

32.For the question of Thoreau’s manifold relationship to something we might call “modern,” see François Specq, Laura Dassow Walls, and Michael Granger, eds., Thoreauvian Modernities: Transatlantic Conversations on an American Icon (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013); and Jerome Tharaud, “‘So far Heathen’: Thoreau, The Missionary Memoir, and Walden’s Cosmic Modernity,” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance, 59, no. 4 (2013): 618–61, ↩

33.They also probably knew of Thoreau’s work as an expert witness frequently called to give testimony against dams, which he did in 1851, 1853, and 1854. Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:211; Harding, Days of Henry Thoreau, 326; Kenneth Walter Cameron, “Thoreau in the Court of Common Pleas (1854),” Emerson Society Quarterly 14, no. 1 (1959): 86–89. ↩
34.At least temporarily. Although the state ordered the Billerica dam torn down, Talbot appealed, and when he did, the state changed its mind. See Donahue, “‘Dammed at Both Ends.’” ↩

35.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:33. ↩

36.Thoreau waffled: in 1856 he thought that the only way the Great Meadows could have remained free of trees and bushes was if frequent floods killed the woody invaders; hence, floods that occasionally stayed too long and killed the grasses were simply to be expected; then in 1857, after consulting a 1654 history of Concord, he changed his mind. The grass-killing floods were human-made. After his research in 1859 at the behest of Brown, he was convinced: the floods were definitely artificial. But then, in 1860, he once again found himself scratching his head, unsure. Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1056, 1118, 1485, 1624–25, 1689. ↩

37.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:789. ↩

38.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1500. ↩

39.August 2, 1859, was typical, when he took readings of the river’s depth at 6 a.m., 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. Thoreau, JAM, Aug. 2. ↩

40.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1494. ↩

41.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1504. ↩

42.Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Carl F. Hovde, William L. Howarth, and Elizabeth Hall Witherell, eds., (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 37. LeMenager points out that A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers can be read as a book contrasting two different ways of valuing a river: the commercial, and the poetic. Stephanie LeMenager, Manifest and Other Destinies: Territorial Fictions of the Nineteenth-Century United States (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), 121. ↩

43.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1011. Eric Wilson writes that Thoreau “wished to embody the pulsations of the world,” and Sarah Luria makes the case for reading his river survey and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers alongside each other. See Wilson, Romantic Turbulence: Chaos, Ecology and American Space (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 96; Luria, “Thoreau’s Geopoetics.” ↩

44.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1587. ↩

45.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:425. ↩

46.Oxford English Dictionary online, s.v. “abstract.” ↩

47.On Frémont, the Mexican-American War, and surveying, see especially William H. Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West (New York: Monticello Editions, 1966), 240–64; for a different take on Frémont, one that captures the cultural ambivalence that his exploration helped stir up, see Anne Farrar Hyde, An American Vision: Far Western Landscape and National Culture, 1820–1920 (New York: New York University Press, 1990), esp. chap. 1, “Looking Far West: Assessing the Possibilities of the Landscape, 1800–1850,” 12–52. ↩

48.Roger G. Kennedy, Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). ↩

49.This paragraph leans on Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014), 3,
114 (for statistics), and esp. chap. 3, “Right Hand, 1815–1819,” and chap. 7, “Seed, 1829–1837,” 215–59. For the role of cotton in the rise of global capitalism and the ascendency of the West, see Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015). ↩

50.Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told, 317. ↩
51.Henry David Thoreau, “Slavery in Massachusetts,” in Thoreau: Collected Essays and Poems (New York: Library of America, 2001), 333; Henry David Thoreau, “Life without Principle,” in Thoreau: Collected Essays and Poems, 348–49. ↩

52.Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, in Thoreau: A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers; Walden; The Maine Woods; Cape Cod (New York: Library of America, 1985), 304. ↩

53.Cavell proposes that loss is one-half of the central theme of Thoreau’s work, especially in Walden. Stanley Cavell, The Senses of Walden: An Expanded Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992). ↩

54.Thoreau, Walden, 387. Hannah Arendt argues that one of the triumphs of the culture of modern capitalism is to reduce everything to the most basic metabolic functions — we either labor, or we consume. Such reduction — another kind of abstraction — denies the one thing that makes us fundamentally human: culture. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), esp. pt. 3, “Labor,” 79–135. ↩

55.The position was outlined, briefly, in Perry Miller’s “Nature and the National Ego,” in Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 204–5, 207–8, 215; elaborated and celebrated in Nash’s Wilderness and the American Mind (1967) and Oelschlaeger’s The Idea of Wilderness (1991); and codified in Cronon’s Changes in the Land (1983) and “The Trouble with Wilderness,” (1995) — two texts that, I would argue, mark a more or less stable consensus among environmental historians as to Thoreau’s intellectual legacy. But in a recent article in Environmental History, Kent Curtis has argued that environmental historians tend to use Thoreau as a device rather than a source. Kent Curtis, “The Virtue of Thoreau: Biography, Geography and History in Walden Woods,” Environmental History 15, no. 1 (Jan. 2010): 37, See also Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 4–8, for a useful corrective. ↩

56.See, for instance, the National Park Service’s website for Death Valley National Park, which misquotes Thoreau as intoning “in wilderness is the preservation of the world.” ↩

57.Laura Dassow Walls, “Believing in Nature: Wilderness and Wildness in Thoreauvian Science,” in Thoreau’s Sense of Place: Essays in American Environmental Writing, ed. Richard J. Schneider (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000), 15; Walls, Seeing New Worlds, 13–14, passim; Botkin, No Man’s Garden. ↩

58.Thoreau, “Walking,” in Thoreau: Collected Essays and Poems, For a current elaboration of Thoreau’s insight, see Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004). ↩

59.Thoreau, Walden, 501–11. For Thoreau and his role in Concord’s Underground Railroad, see Walden, 443; The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:123, 283, 646. ↩
60.Thoreau, “Walking,” 246. ↩

61.Thoreau, “Walking,” 225, 254. ↩

62.Thoreau, Walden, 587. ↩

63.See Thoreau, “Walking,” 230. ↩

64.Hannah Arendt writes of surveying: “It is in the nature of the human surveying capacity that it can function only if man disentangles himself from all involvement in and concern with the close at hand and withdraws himself to a distance from everything near him. The greater the distance between himself and his surroundings, world or earth, the more he will be able to survey and to measure and the less will worldly, earth-bound space be left to him.” Arendt, Human Condition, 251. ↩

65.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1721. ↩
66.Eric Wilson notes that Thoreau literally sought to write a river in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and a plant in Walden. Wilson, Romantic Turbulence, 95. See also Cavell’s essay “Sentences” in The Senses of Walden, 36–

69. ↩

67.On the back of the Simon Brown’s June letter requesting that he collect statistics on the town’s bridges, Thoreau had written to himself that he needed to consult a copy of Baldwin’s map, and then crossed the map through, as if, at a later point, he had checked it off his list. Brown et al. to Thoreau, June 4, 1859. ↩

68.B. Harley reminds us that silences are also an active performance. See Harley, New Nature of Maps, 86, 87, 97, 99. Jonathan Smith, in “The Lie That Binds: Destabilizing the Text of Landscape,” in Place/Culture/Representation, ed. James Duncan and David Ley (London: Routledge, 1993), 78–94, takes off from Harley’s argument and shows how irony also can infuse spatial representations. Irony, for Smith, is the intrusion of local, private knowledge into the blank official space of the map. ↩

69.Then, on July 7, he wrote: “But, though meandering, it is straighter in its general course than would be believed. These nearly twenty-three miles in length (or 16+ direct) are contained within a breadth of two miles twenty-six rods; i.e., so much it takes to meander in. It can be plotted by the scale of one thousand feet to an inch on a sheet of paper seven feet one and one quarter inches long by eleven inches wide.” The dimensions of that sheet of paper are very nearly the dimensions of his finished map (seven feet seven inches by fifteen inches). Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1488. ↩

70.Henry David Thoreau, “Names of Bridges on Baldwin’s Map of 1811,” [1859?], MS, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 6. ↩

71.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 2:1009. ↩

72.Cavell writes, “To realize where we are and what we are living for, the conditions of our present, the angle at which we stand to the world [notice Cavell’s slide into surveying analogies], the writer calls ‘improving the time,’ using a preacher’s phrase and giving his kind of turn to it.” Cavell, The Senses of Walden, 61. Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:932. ↩

73.“In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time . . . to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment.” Thoreau, Walden, 336. ↩
74.Henry David Thoreau, Map Tracings, n.d. [1857–1860?], five sheets, MS, HDTP, vault A35, Thoreau, unit 1, box 1, folder 6. ↩

75.Thoreau, “Plan of Concord River.” ↩

76.Thoreau, “Life without Principle,” 362. ↩

77.Report of the Joint Special Committee, cii–ciii. ↩

78.Thoreau, “Plan of Concord River.” ↩

79.I’ve borrowed the term deep map from William Least Heat-Moon, whereas Luria prefers the analogy “deep focus shot.” In a similar vein, Laura Dassow Walls has argued that Thoreau’s scientific gaze sought consilience, “the murmur of multiple voices and actions,” rather than neatly separate, cleanly divisible truths. David Nye notes that many countermodern narratives take as their founding presupposition that the land is not empty but already claimed, and if that’s true, then Thoreau’s map is explicitly political, a sort of prefiguring of the sort of revolutionary space imagined by Henri Lefebvre. See William Least Heat-Moon, PrairyErth: A Deep Map (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991); Luria, “Thoreau’s Geopoetics,” 135; Walls, Seeing New Worlds, 13, 126, 132, 169, 251; Nye, America as Second Creation, 292, 294; and Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1991). ↩

80.Thoreau, “Huckleberries,” 496. ↩

81.Thoreau, The Journals of Henry David Thoreau, 1:539. Anne Baker notes that “Thoreau adapts the process of measurement to his own ends, transforming it into a means of resisting the nationalist and commercial agendas that surveying served.” We could also think of Thoreau’s map as heterotopic, as seeking “to create a space of illusion that exposes every real space, all the sites inside of which human life is partitioned, as still more illusory,” as Michel Foucault put it. See Anne Baker, Heartless Immensity: Literature, Culture, and Geography in Antebellum America (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006), 48; and Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 27, ↩

 Cite
Daegan Miller, “A Map of Radical Bewilderment,” Places Journal, March 2018. Accessed 11 Jun 2019.

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