Approaches to Walden

This week, it came time for my students to grapple with Walden and for me to help them in their efforts — as if I had any idea how to teach the book. Thoreau veers so wildly from subject to subject and offers so little in the way of segue or causality between one chapter and the next that, at first, Walden seems to be simply a collection of essays in the manner of Emerson, linked together by the personal sentiments of Thoreau himself and by their shared site of inspiration on the banks of Walden Pond but not by logic or rhetoric or any other identifiably literary qualities. But then, as I re-read Walden in preparation for class discussions, I returned to and reconsidered Thoreau’s encounter with the loon in the chapter entitled “Brute Neighbors”: Continue reading →