Henry David Thoreau, the Disobedient Naturalist

George Carlisle

Thursdays, April 5 - April 26 10:00 a.m. - noon 4 sessions
King's Chapel Parish House, 64 Beacon Street

Thoreau’s Walden is arguably the most influential American book of the 19th century. It is a journal written when he was living in the woods on the shores of Walden Pond, in a tiny house he built himself. This was the time when most of America regarded the woods as a source of lumber and the waterways as a source  of power, and when Henry Thoreau was regarded as an eccentric.

Gradually Walden and his other writings became published and well known, having a profound influence on the way people viewed the great outdoors. John Muir came to consider Thoreau as a visionary and a catalyst. Not a single environmentalist has escaped the influence of the writings of a man who, in his time, marched to the beat of another drum.

Thoreau did not get off to a promising start. He was a hometown boy from  Concord whose career at Harvard was irregular. He went to jail rather than pay his taxes, and carefully counted the petals of the daisy he was holding. Yet his essay Civil Disobedience is regarded as the most famous essay in American history, and the observance of the 200th anniversary of his birthday is significant internationally as well as in his hometown. 

Our discussions will be based on readings from the Penguin The Portable Thoreau. We will be discussing some of the essays, poetry, and selections from Walden, The Maine Woods, and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

Teaching Style: Seminar     Weekly Preparation: 2-3 hours

    George Carlisle

    George Carlisle earned his M.F.A. in creative writing at the University of Iowa. After a teaching internship at Phillips Exeter Academy, he spent his entire career teaching English and humanities at St. Paul’s School. He taught for a year at Eton College, after which he  and an Eton master initiated and subsequently directed an exchange program between the two schools.