Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau

Kevin Dann. TarcherPerigee, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-399-18466-6
Dann (Lewis Creek Lost and Found) conducts a graceful, attentive inquiry into the mind of Henry David Thoreau, “mystic, transcendentalist, and natural philosopher.” Dann acknowledges Thoreau’s place among fellow transcendentalists Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, but is more interested in the experiences that led Thoreau to his oracular poetry and the intense study of the natural world recorded in his journals. This book depicts Thoreau’s scrupulous observations as both scientific and reverent, eschewing the mechanical and analytical for “a relational, sympathetic science” that saw the world as numinous and alive with spirits. It dives so deeply into the project of mapping Thoreau’s internal landscape that the outline of his outer life—his work, his relationships, even his famous experiment at Walden Pond of “the very serious business of living authentically”—seems only lightly sketched in comparison. Dann shows an ease with the metaphysical (which is typically considered at odds with the discipline of the historian), making a warm, sympathetic argument for Thoreau as a mystic and visionary and redefining his reputation as an “indefatigable measurer of trees and truth.” (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/05/2016
Release date: 01/01/2017
Hardcover - 978-0-399-18468-0
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-399-18467-3
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