Lecture by Joshua Kotin: What Would Thoreau Do?

Title: What Would Thoreau Do?


Walden teems with advice.  Thoreau tells us what to wear and eat, what to read and how.  Yet as most readers acknowledge, this advice is inconsistent and, at times, baffling. This talk examines Thoreau’s pedagogy in Walden.  The first part investigates what the book teaches us (if anything) about the “true necessaries and means of life.”  The second part concerns what Thoreau himself learns from living at Walden and writing Walden.  The third and final part examines the relation between the book’s value of us and its value for Thoreau.  Keywords: pedagogy, personal sovereignty, self-cultivation, receptivity, wakefulness, boredom, utopia.


Joshua Kotin is Assistant Professor in the English Department at Princeton University.  His research and teaching focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, modernism, and poetry and poetics. His essays and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in PMLA, Modernism/Modernity, Los Angeles Review of Books, and nonsite.org.  He is currently a Visiting Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, where he is completing a monograph entitled, Private Utopias.

 27 February 2014, 5pm, Bungehuis, Spuistraat 210, Amsterdam, room 004