English Language and Literature ETDs

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The familiar, and to an extent self-created, image of Henry Thoreau is that of a quintessentially inner-directed man. However, most of what he wrote for publication during his career was travel narrative--a popular and outer-directed genre. Travel narrative provided Thoreau a key structural principle for his prose; a vehicle for the expression of his most characteristic subjects, the engagement of consciousness with nature and society; and a controlling metaphor for his life's work in letters. This study is a generic and genetic examination of Thoreau's works in this mode.

Thoreau's apprenticeship in the traditional forms of poetry, criticism, and essay, met with frank criticism from his editors, and at Emerson's suggestion he turned to writing about his interest in nature, in "A Natural History of Massachusetts" (1842). Excited by this subject but still struggling toward a suitable form, Thoreau essayed travel narrative as a corrective to the disjunctiveness of his early prose, and produced "A Walk to Wachusett" (1842) and "A Winter Walk" (1843). These essays reveal Thoreau's dawning awareness of the suitability of travel narrative as a means of providing coherence for his writing and as a symbol of his personal quest for value in nature.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Leon Howard

Second Committee Member

George Arms

Third Committee Member

David A. Remley



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