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A Historical Guide to Henry David Thoreau (Historical Guides to American Authors) 1st Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195138627
ISBN-10: 0195138627
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About the Author


William E. Cain is Mary Jewitt Gaiser Professor of English at Wellesley College.
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Product Details

  • Series: Historical Guides to American Authors
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195138627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195138627
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,369,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Nate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 2, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are some very good essays on a range of topics related to Thoreau in this collection, but as a whole it doesn't really live up to the expectation that I had based on its title. I bought this expecting that it was a guide to the historical background of Thoreau's writing and thinking. What it turned out to be was a small collection of historical essays on Thoreau, that don't seem to have been chosen with any clear aim towards comprehension of coverage. I found some of the essays to be quite good, but most of them were fairly narrowly specialized -- when I expected something more general that would appeal to and have relevance for anyone with interest in Thoreau the man and writer.

There is a brief biography of Thoreau, that would be quite valuable as a short introduction for someone who hadn't read any of the other more comprehensive biographies. I didn't find anything there, though, that added to or offered a new perspective on the approaches of some of the standard longer bios of Thoreau. This essay and a very worthwhile chronology of significant events in Thoreau's lifetime are the elements that most closely match what I was expecting from this book.

Beyond that, there are essays on Thoreau's conception of "manhood," on his critique of domesticity and how it relates to similar critiques that had been offered by his proto-feminist contemporaries, on his attempt to inscribe "the real" into his writing, on the background of his "civil disobedience," and on the reactions of his contemporaries to Thoreau the Hermit.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An attempt to put Thoreau in the wider context of his times- good effort and somewhat illuminating but needs to be supplemented with other works on the history of the times to be more effective.
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