“Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.” Nature—A radical new imagination of woods and wilderness: Correspondences The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right. (28) Nature—A radical new imagination of woods and wilderness: Correspondences Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance. For, nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. To a man laboring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population. (29) Spirit in Nature: The world proceeds from the same spirit as the body of man… We are as much strangers in nature, as we are aliens from God. We do not understand the notes of birds. The fox and the deer run away from us; the bear and tiger rend us. We do not know the uses of more than a few plants, as corn and the apple, the potato and the vine. Is not the landscape, every glimpse of which hath a grandeur, a face of him? Yet this may show us what discord is between man and nature, for you cannot freely admire a noble landscape, if laborers are digging in the field hard by. The poet finds something ridiculous in his delight, until he is out of the sight of men. (50) Nature—How do we know nature? Perceive it? Study it? “When I behold a rich landscape, it is less to my purpose to recite correctly the order and superposition of the strata, than to know why all thought of multitude is lost in a tranquil sense of unity. I cannot greatly honor minuteness in details, so long as there is no hint to explain the relation between things and thoughts; no ray upon the metaphysics of conchology, of botany, of the arts, to show the relation of forms of flowers, shells, animals, architecture, to the mind, and build science upon ideas.” (51) “The problem of restoring the world original and eternal beauty, is solved by the redemption of the soul… The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself. He cannot be a naturalist, until he satisfies all the demands of the spirit.” (54) Nature— “Build therefore, your own world” “Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you.” (55) Emerson— some big take-aways • Emerson’s relation to religion; what is relation of spirit to nature? • Tradition vs. insight: relation of American literature to natures. • How does nature sub-serve humanity (its uses)? • How does one know nature? • Emerson’s view of science & relation of science to nature. • What is the relationship of the poet to nature? From Emerson to Thoreau… If Emerson is arguably the most important 19th century American literary figure, Thoreau is arguably the most important 19th century American environmental figure. What are the stereotypes/preconceptions we have of Thoreau? Thoreau: Emerson’s “Earthy Opposite”? Heavily influenced by Emerson Split visions of Thoreau: an ecological saint? Or the wannabe who lived in Emerson’s backyard? Walden never claims to be an experiment in wilderness living….so what is it? What is Walden? What is Walden? Based on the journals Thoreau kept during his stay at Walden Pond. Kept a journal from 1837-1861. Spent 2 years in a cabin at Walden Pond that he built himself (1845-1847). Walden is not published until 1854: nine years of writing and revisions! Walden is thus a highly constructed literary piece – not a direct nature essay or a simple journal. Buell suggests that there are 7 environmental “projects” in Walden: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Pastoral project of edenic recovery Pastoral project of critique Experiment in frugality (adds georgic elements to his use of pastoral) Interest in natural history (the seasons, proto-ecological) Landscape aesthetics Geography (landscape of Concord vs. landscape of the text) “Politics” of nature Two big reading questions for Tuesday: What does Thoreau have to say about the railroad? Buell argues that Walden actually illustrates the development of an ecological perspective over the course of the book: the later chapters show a more eco-centric perspective than the earlier chapters. It is as if Thoreau became more environmentally aware while working on the text. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? What evidence (through close reading) do you have to support your answer? Checklist of characteristics of environmental texts The nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history. The human interest is not understood to be the only legitimate interest. Human accountability to the environment is part of the text’s ethical orientation. Some sense of the environment as a process rather than a constant or a given is at least implicit in the text.