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This assignment is like the Russian Nesting Dolls of analysis – analyze Thoreau, then discuss literary criticism, then read Kathryn Schultz’s criticism of Thoreau, then criticize Schultz’s criticism.

As we have analyzed the work of Thoreau and discussed different types of literary criticism that can be utilized when reading literature, I wanted to direct your attention to an article that was published in The New Yorker this week by Kathryn Schultz, entitled “Why Do We Love Henry David Thoreau?”. Rarely do the texts we read in class end up as current event articles in the news, so when it happens we need to stop and take a closer look.

As you read Schultz’s article, consider the questions she is posing about Thoreau and his work –

  • Why had Thoreau been so cherished?
  • How did his work make it into the ‘canon’ of American Literature?
  • What is the ‘canon’ and who decides what texts end up there?
  • Can a text ever leave the canon?
  • What critical lens has Thoreau been viewed with in the past? Is this wrong?
  • Is there a ‘right’ critical lens to use when examining a text?
  • Why is Schultz re-examining Thoreau now?
  • What critical lens is she using?

You will also need to generate your own questions to ask each other and prompt discussion during Socratic Seminiar tomorrow! If you lost your copy of the article from class –

You can download a PDF version of the article here.

Or you can visit the New Yorker website and read the article.