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Waking Up 
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Post Re: Happy Birthday
lawrenceindestin wrote:
Thomas Hood, I'm a bit chagrined you haven't sent me a Happy Birthday wish on the 191st anniversary of our friend Henry David Thoreau. I waited as long as I could before I one uped you. Love, Lawrence


Thank you, Lawrence. I am oneuped. I did pm Chris and have begun to receive Topic Reply Notification again.

Tom



Sat Jul 12, 2008 6:50 pm
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Post Re: I see we are not yet of one spirit
Quote:
Will, I have never claimed that anything was true simply because I said it. What I do claim about Thoreau's allusive language is that it is a fact because I can point out examples. Really, all a doubting person needs do is examine the notes in Harding's or Cramer's annotated edition, or go to Ann Woodlief's site.


Tom, I expressed myself poorly there. I meant that claiming that Thoreau is a master of allusion doesn't support any particular passage being read as allusive. That would be a tautology. And I think, by the way, that the term allusion isn't a good substitute for "symbolism" in cases where you are pointing out an extended parallel, such as Collins' shanty to a cathedral.

I appreciate the invitation to read the annotated edition. Maybe I will one day. For now, I choose to have a different relationship toward this book. I use it as a primary furnishing for my own mental house. The particulars of the annotators are not essential to this purpose. I feel I am on solid Thoreauvian ground here, by the way.

Quote:
Yes, if a person does not understand all that Thoreau intends, he is both misreading and impoverishing the text.

Ah, but this matter of intention has always been sticky, not even in good repute with some. Annotators certainly have no corner on this market. What's more, Tom, I get the strong impression that through supposedly knowing the author's intention, you think you will arrive at the correct reading. But does such a reading exist? I would say not. There are both plausible and implausible statements about any text, but a perfect reading is a chimera. The cliche is true: literature suggests many different, plausible, readings to different people at different times in their lives.

A last thing. Aren't you being a little tough on Robert regarding the non-wildness of Walden Pond? Sure, it wasn't wilderness, and HDT never represents it as such, or his life at the cabin as isolated. But Walden was not a "slum," either (which suggests crowding). It served HDT quite well for the purposes intended. It was only necessary that it be a place apart, and it was.

DWill



Sat Jul 12, 2008 8:00 pm
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The cliche is true: literature suggests many different, plausible, readings to different people at different times in their lives.


Thank you, DWill! How could it be otherwise.

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Post Re: I see we are not yet of one spirit
DWill wrote:
Ah, but this matter of intention has always been sticky, not even in good repute with some. Annotators certainly have no corner on this market. What's more, Tom, I get the strong impression that through supposedly knowing the author's intention, you think you will arrive at the correct reading. But does such a reading exist?


Yes, Will, there is a true intention :) Also sense, feeling, and tone. Look, Thoreau's annotators are good people. I like them and the work they do, although Ann Woodlief is looking for huguenots under every bush or under every tree. Jeff Cramer has taken my continual emendations (nothing I enjoy more than finding an error in Cramer) with good graces. Besides, Ann Woodlief is your fellow Virginian and her work is free.

I think I sometimes discover the author's intention by close reading of the text. I do not suppose that anyone finds an author's intention by woolgathering with a book open.

Tough on Robert? I hope not. Robert is the profound one among us.

Tom



Sun Jul 13, 2008 1:21 pm
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Post Re: I see we are not yet of one spirit
[quote="Thomas Hood] Yes, Will, there is a true intention :) Also sense, feeling, and tone. Look, Thoreau's annotators are good people. [/quote]

A true intention amounting to a Correct Reading? You don't specify. Isn't it also a given that once the author's words are on their way to the reader, whatever he intended or didn't is not often to be discovered by anyone? I agree certainly about sense, feeling, and tone. This would be the reason I could not accept Collins' shanty as cathedral--out of keeping with the charcteristic sense, feeling, and tone of Throeau. But I don't have any doubt about the goodness of his annotators!

Will



Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:29 am
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Post Re: I see we are not yet of one spirit
DWill wrote:
A true intention amounting to a Correct Reading? You don't specify.


What's to specify? Sense, feeling, tone, and intention are standard terms in literary criticism for the dimensions of meaning going back, I believe, to Coleridge. I first encountered them in the works of I.A. Richards.

DWill wrote:
Isn't it also a given that once the author's words are on their way to the reader, whatever he intended or didn't is not often to be discovered by anyone?


"Not by anyone" I agree with, because most people read passively, have no training in close reading, and are unprepared and unwilling to do the work. They imagine that just by looking at the words the whole meaning of the text will be revealed to them. Most initial readings of complex literature like the Sonnets of Shakespeare or Walden are misreadings. Mine were. If one dwells on a text and interprets it in terms of objective features of context, then eventually a stable interpretation can be achieved.

Most people do not understand the logic of heuristic reasoning, what George Polya in his classic How to Solve it calls signs of progress. That is, if a hypothesis of low probability leads to confirming evidence, then the hypothesis becomes more probably, sometimes much more probable. What is true can grown.

The cathedral hypothesis did not pop out of my head full grown. Just so you'll know, here is the kind of thing an active reader does:

Quote:
According to the GoogleBook Walden Pond: A History By William
Barksdale Maynard, p.67, the weather in 1845 turned mild on March
5. "Near the end of March" Thoreau borrowed an axe and began cutting
trees for his house.

He says: "1.62 By the middle of April, for I made no haste in my
work, but rather made the most of it, my house was framed and ready
for the raising. I had already bought the shanty of James Collins, an
Irishman who worked on the Fitchburg Railroad, for boards. "

Presumably he bought the shanty after March 5 and the date he
borrowed the axe, as there would have been no point in building a
frame if he had no boards for sheeting.

According to the Perpetual Easter Calculator
( http://www.phys.uu.nl/~vgent/easter/easter_text3a.htm ) Easter by
the Gregorian Easter rules occurred on March 23, 1845. Thus, it is
likely that Thoreau was buying the Collins' shanty around the time of
Easter, if the Protestants in New England followed Gregorian rules.


I hope considerations such as these answer your concerns.

Tom


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Mon Jul 14, 2008 5:37 pm
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Quoted from Tom's post:

Quote:
the Gregorian Easter rules occurred on March 23, 1845. Thus, it is
likely that Thoreau was buying the Collins' shanty around the time of
Easter, if the Protestants in New England followed Gregorian rules.


What if HDT was just reporting the actually dates he purchased the shanty and the ax and merely a coincidence that it happened to be near Easter? This is possible, is it not?

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."


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Mon Jul 14, 2008 9:04 pm
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Saffron wrote:
What if HDT was just reporting the actually dates he purchased the shanty and the ax . . .


Saffron, Thoreau did not purchase an axe (he spells it with an e). He borrowed it:

Quote:
1.60 Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my house, and began to cut down some tall, arrowy white pines, still in their youth, for timber.


And just as Thoreau does not tell who loaned him the axe, he does not tell the date he purchased the Collins shanty.

Saffron wrote:
What if [the purchace of the shanty was] merely a coincidence that happened to be near Easter?


Thoreau did not celebrate religion holidays, but the rest of his family did, and I suppose his mother and sisters would have dressed for the occasion, as is traditional, so he would have known about it. If the Collinses were Irish Catholic, as was likely, then it may be that the date to renew their lives was chosen to correspond to the date of religious renewal. The date of the sale may have been no coincidence. Further, when Thoreau made the purchase, he also was committed to a new life, since he paid $4.25 for it, a considerable sum for a man who worked for a dollar a day. My belief, however, is that the Easter context of the event influenced Thoreau's interpretation of the event, whether or not the concurrence is called a coincidence.

Two additional points: Easter in 1845 occurred on March 23, and it just so happens that Easter in 2008 occurred on March 23 too. Second, the concurrence of events was (or became) extreme important to Thoreau. Much of his later life was devoted to phenological research.

Quote:
Phenology is the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena. The word is derived from the Greek phainomai (φαινομαι)- to appear, come into view, and indicates that phenology has been principally concerned with the dates of first occurrence of natural events in their annual cycle. Examples include the date of emergence of leaves and flowers, the first flight of butterflies and the first appearance of migratory birds, the date of leaf colouring and fall in deciduous trees, the dates of egg-laying of birds and amphibia, or the timing of the developmental cycles of temperate-zone honey bee colonies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenology

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Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:24 pm
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Post Re: I see we are not yet of one spirit
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I hope considerations such as these answer your concerns.


Tom, they don't. The attempt is too oblique for me. But I thank you for trying.

DWill



Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:54 pm
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OK, Will. If you don't see it, you don't see it. I admit I am disposed toward the cryptographic. Lawrence thinks:

Quote:
If the writer puts a double entendre behind every word he's writing a puzzle or is being sarcastic.


Sometimes this is true, but sometimes the writer is creative and adds value. I hope you will post about what you do see in Walden.

Tom


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Last edited by Thomas Hood on Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:21 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:24 pm
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Post Awakening the neighbors......
I remember reading this as a teen in 9th grade. It was so amazing then to think of a man so bold as to defy the social norms and confront his self imposed limitations. I think the wakening of his neighbors is like sharing his awakening.

Birds do this every day at my home. They greet the rising sun and share the experience with anyone with ears to hear. It is invigorating to awaken to the new day this way. Oh how sweet to let the hours pass as he did easing into the work of the day.

Still, I do not wear a watch after so many years. Allow the world to turn as it will and enjoy the simple pleasures of life as it presents itself around you.

I just discovered this site and I plan to re-read Walden's Pond with a few more years of life behind me. I hope it has not spoiled me too much.



Wed Jul 16, 2008 11:26 pm
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Post Re: Awakening the neighbors......
Granny D wrote:
. . .I plan to re-read Walden's Pond with a few more years of life behind me. I hope it has not spoiled me too much.


Granny D, I think you will find that Walden too has grown deeper with the years. It has for me.

Tom


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Quote:
I hope you will post about what you do see in Walden.


I intend to make time to do that, Tom. My interest is in what Thoreau may be trying to tell me and us, which to me is the whole idea behind intent.

DWill



Sat Jul 19, 2008 11:31 am
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Image

Gentlemen.... while your back and forth intellectual fencing match was interesting, and I too learned and gained vocabulary, the post was hi-jacked and steered way off course from answering the very interesting and complex question posed.

What exactly did Thoreau mean by "waking" his neighbors....?

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". (Walden, chapter 1)

I believe that Thoreau (correctly) saw many of his neighbors (men and women) as people whose lives were spent effectively "sleeping" by being entrenched in a trade- "Men have become the tools of their tools.", and caught up in the grandeur of their homes- " Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them."
I believe he meant to awaken them in the most sincere way possible- to awaken them internally to what they were missing in their lives.
To open their minds eye to the beautiful world that lays off the beaten path, and just off their doorstep.

Maybe this quote from Thoreau's journal can partly answer the question....?
(July 18th 1851)
"Have you knowledge of the morning? Do you sympathize with that season of nature? Are you abroad early, brushing the dews aside? If the sun rises on you slumbering, if you do not hear the morning cock-crow, if you do not witness the blushes of Aurora, if you are not acquainted with Venus as the morning star, what relation have to you wisdom and purity? You have then forgotten your Creator in the days of your youth !
Your shutters were darkened till noon ! You rose with a sick headache ! In the morning sing, as do the birds. What of those birds which should slumber on their perches till the sun was an hour high? What kind of fowl would they be and new kind of bats and owls, - hedge sparrows or larks? then took a dish of tea or hot coffee before they began to sing?"

I myself truly believe that Thoreau's writing has helped me to awaken my own mind's eye, and as I go about my days I contemplate and concentrate more and more on the simple and beautiful things that surround all of us.

It was a good question- I wish there were more answers as to what this "waking" meant to all of you....

Have a great day.

Art



Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:44 pm
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Art1972 wrote:
I myself truly believe that Thoreau's writing has helped me to awaken my own mind's eye, and as I go about my days I contemplate and concentrate more and more on the simple and beautiful things that surround all of us.


Agreed, Art. Pleased to meet a fellow Thoreauvian.

Tom



Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:13 pm
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