A Robert Frost poem frames my foray into these recent interpretations of Henry David Thoreau. In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (1923) the speaker pauses before trees and evokes a longing for death in the repeated last line: “And miles to go before I sleep.” This poem is Thoreauvian in its meditation on death and sociality—the paused figure communicating with a horse and observing disinterestedly a world of propertied individuals. In picturing this scene, I am drawn to flip the terms of an overwrought cliché—missing the forest for the trees—as I consider the cultural work of these two books to think through the figure of Thoreau and his immersion in figurative and literal woods. In reading these books together, we get the rich texture of the world that produced a Thoreau figure, allowing readers to engage questions of posthumanism and...
Book Review| June 01 2019
Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau
When I Came to Die: Process and Prophecy in Thoreau’s Vision of Dying
Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau. By Arsić, Branka.
Harvard Univ. Press.
2016. x, 455 pp. Cloth, $53.00.
When I Came to Die: Process and Prophecy in Thoreau’s Vision of Dying. By Raden, Audrey.
Univ. of Massachusetts Press.
2017. xii, 156 pp. Cloth, $90.00; paper, $27.95.
American Literature (2019) 91 (2): 423–425.
Ben Bascom; Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau
When I Came to Die: Process and Prophecy in Thoreau’s Vision of Dying. American Literature 1 June 2019; 91 (2): 423–425. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-7529227
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