WebQuest: Henry David Thoreau and Walden: The Great Experiment
Overview: In this WebQuest, you will learn about the ways in which Henry David Thoreau reflects the Transcendentalist emphasis on nature and initiates a long literary tradition of nature writing. Here you can see the growing emphasis on the American landscape and setting as an important focus for American writing. You’ll also learn about the ways in which Thoreau made the grand Transcendentalist experiment by building and living in his cabin at Walden Pond.
1: Learn about the life and work of Henry David Thoreau.
Step 2: Consider Emerson’s call for self-reliance.
3: Now walk to Walden Pond for a visit with Thoreau.
Step 4: Read Walden.
Journal Prompt #2: Thoreau often starts with an observation of a seemingly insignificant object, animal, plant, or phenomenon in the world around him—but then moves to a fuller, deeper reflection. Find one example of this in Walden. Copy and paste the passage into your bulletin board post and then reflect on it. How does Thoreau make the leap from the “thinginess” of this world to a larger sense of the cosmos?
Discuss the ways in which Thoreau uses his focused experience at Walden Pond to reflect Transcendentalist concerns with nature. You may wish to focus on one particular aspect of the pond, one particular time of day, or one particular season. In what ways does Thoreau bring to life the principles and philosophy Emerson articulated in "Nature,” “The American Scholar,” or “Self-Reliance”? Be sure to cite resources from the WebQuest as well as from the primary texts (Walden and your chosen Emerson essay). See the Essay Guidelines for more detail about research, sources, length requirements, and documentation. Essay due to Dr. Dwyer via email by Wednesday, February 20, at 3:00 p.m.
“American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide” was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit “About This Site.” © 2003 Linda Tate.