Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Seven centuries before Thoreau, a Japanese philosopher, Kamo no Chomei, carried out an experiment similar to Thoreau’s by living in a cabin in the woods. Compare Hojoki, Chomei’s account of his stay there, to Walden. Hojoki is included in the Norton Anthology of Oriental Literature.

2. Thoreau was fond of reading religious books such as the Bhagavad Gita and Dhammapada, Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, respectively. What use has he made of ideas derived from these sources in Walden?

3. Thoreau’s Journals, written between 1837 and 1861, contain many of the ideas that he worked into books such as Walden. Compare the writing in the Journals to that in Walden. How is it similar or different?

4. Thoreau’s first two books, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden, both involve water, rivers and ponds. Compare the two books. How is the imagery the same? How does it differ?

5. Compare the books of a modern nature writer such as Edward Hoagland or John McPhee to Thoreau’s Walden. How do the approaches differ? Do these more recent books feature an underlying philosophy such as transcendentalism?

6. Compare Annie Dillard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to Walden.

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