Segments in this Video

Discovering Thoreau the Man (02:50)


Concord residents saw Henry David Thoreau as an educated eccentric. He spent time in the woods and worked for Ralph Waldo Emerson as a handyman. In 1845, he built a hut, where he pondered the meaning of life for two years.

Thoreau Legacy of Walden Pond (01:26)

An actor playing Thoreau explains his philosophical goals for retreating to a cabin in Walden Woods, including the search for a deliberate life.

Walden Pond Daily Life (02:08)

An actor playing Thoreau describes reading the Bhagavad Gita and the Iliad. He grew a vegetable plot and walked to Concord frequently to purchase staples and visit friends; he preferred solitude to social life.

Thoreau Writing at Walden (02:35)

An actor playing Thoreau discusses working on essays and lectures, including one about his experience at Walden Pond. Hear a journal entry about nature and solitude.

Thoreau's Spiritual Ideas (01:14)

An actor playing Thoreau identifies as a pantheist. He looks for God in nature and appreciates ideas from Christ, Buddha, Krishna, and the Great Spirit.

Walden Pond Seasons (02:08)

An actor playing Thoreau describes October leaves, winter stillness, and spring rebirth.

Thoreau's Enduring Reputation (01:05)

An actor playing Thoreau discusses his desire to live in the moment and seek truth, rather than to pursue money or fame. He urges others to follow their own life path.

Thoreau's Winter Journals (02:03)

Over 300,000 visitors come to Concord, Massachusetts annually; few experience Walden Pond in winter. Thoreau published "Walden, or Life in the Woods" in 1854; hear a January excerpt.

Winter Activities (02:27)

Thoreau surveyed Walden Pond for ice harvesting. In 1846, Irish workers cut and packed blocks. Hear Thoreau's description of ice fishing.

Not Quite Solitude (01:59)

Thoreau's cabin lay near the Boston-Fitchburg train tracks. He interacted with hunters, villagers, and railway workers; hear his descriptions of a hunting party and a hooting owl. "Walden, or Life in the Woods," remained unnoticed for 60 years.

Reading Thoreau: a Tutorial (03:12)

Richard H. Baker compares reading Thoreau aloud to dramatic Shakespeare readings. Hear an excerpt from "Walden, or Life in the Woods" describing time as a stream.

What are the Essential Facts? "To Live Life Deliberately..." (02:27)

Baker discusses Thoreau's use of the word "deliberate" and argues that Thoreau preaches a moral superiority to readers.

Why Take Thoreau Seriously? "Simplify, Simplify, Simplify..." (02:07)

Baker reflects on the challenges of getting students to connect to Thoreau's principles and austerity. He puts "Walden, or Life in the Woods" in the context of the Green Party message.

Thoreau's Challenging Rhetoric and the Notion of Nature (02:23)

Thoreau's writing contains concrete material and spiritual, figurative language. Few of Baker's students have patience for rambling prose or understand Thoreau's austere lifestyle.

An Outdoor Class: Think Transcendentally (02:27)

Baker's students can understand the value of cleansing oneself spiritually. He takes them to the woods to relate nature to other aspects of their lives. One exercise is to study a tree for ten minutes.

Figurative Language: Symbolism as a Concept (02:46)

Baker tries to avoid symbolism when teaching high school students. Thoreau talks about Walden Pond in literary terminology.

Teaching as Performance: Observing the World Differently (01:30)

Baker tries to make lessons memorable to compete with distractions in student's lives. Thoreau looked at the landscape through his legs to change perspective norms.

Understanding Lifestyles: Concord's Baker Farm (02:18)

Baker's students can understand the concrete chapter in "Walden, or Life in the Woods" but are unable to see the analogy between 1850s farm work and corporate work. He tries to make a lasting impression in student's consciousness.

Credits: Henry David Thoreau: An American Eccentric (00:16)

Credits: Henry David Thoreau: An American Eccentric

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Henry David Thoreau: An American Eccentric

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Henry David Thoreau: An American Eccentric recognizes the two-hundred-year birth of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and celebrates this American non-conformist's life. The program offers insight and awareness into Thoreau's reading habits and writing stratagems. Several Thoreau authorities and scholars including: Professor Philip McFarland; actor historian Richard Smith; Professor T.C. Boyle; Professor Richard H. Baker, and James H. Bride, documentarian share their insights relating to Thoreau's unconventional literary vitality. Professor McFarland elucidates how Thoreau's contemporary Concord townsfolk observed his eccentric behavior and life style. On location at Walden Pond, Richard Smith, actor and historian, reenacts several experiences from Thoreau's years to include: Thoreau's daily life; Thoreau's Journal entries; Thoreau's spiritual influences and Thoreau's enduring reputation. Smith notes that the peripatetic Thoreau appeals to the universal and inherent individualism in mankind. James H. Bride offers additional Thoreau biographical facts as well as recounting winter scenes from Thoreau's 1846 January Journal at Walden Pond. Given Thoreau's unconventional lifestyle, his multiple subject interests are enumerated such as finding drinkable water below the winter ice and relating how professional ice businesses remove ice blocks for worldwide trade. Additionally, Professor T.C. Boyle reads several excerpts from Walden' including, Winter Animals, and other journal entries. Professor Richard Baker's tutorial for teachers and students uncovers the challenges and rewards in reading Walden; With candor and insight to the difficulties one might have upon a first reading, Baker cites the importance of reading passages aloud in class, exploring Thoreau's ideas about essential facts i.e., for living deliberately, the notion of simplicity in habit, and the challenging rhetoric evident in Thoreau's writing style. Besides the traditional classroom environment, Baker proposes considering experiences like an outdoor excursion to help students think transcendentally. Baker argues that as concepts, figurative language and symbol are emphasized too often in English classes. They are not relevant for real life experiences. Emphasizing that, teaching is performance, Baker encourages observing the world differently (similar to Thoreau's point-of view), and believes the novice Thoreau reader will benefit from grasping different lifestyles as an option, just as the eccentric Thoreau put in writing in his winter Journals.

Length: 40 minutes

Item#: BVL139600

ISBN: 978-1-64023-779-7

Copyright date: ©2017

Closed Captioned

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