Thoreau and urbanature: from Walden to ecocriticism
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The concept of urbanature is a valuable new idea in ecocritical studies. Urbanature claims that urban life and nature are not as distinct as we have long supposed. Hawks and owls are nesting throughout Central Park and Manhattan at the same time that Western environmentalists are flying thousands of miles in jumbo-jets in an effort to “get back” to a version of nature they claim cannot be found in cities. Thoreau helps us to understand this conflict in the way he links an understanding of the nonhuman world with a wider appreciation of the concept of wildness. This essay will examine the hermit of Walden Pond in biographical detail and will also reveal the continuing impact of his works on students, teachers, and naturalists, especially that group of literary scholars known as ecocritics. Thoreau’s writings deliver a message of intellectual optimism but also of environmental warning. He also offers us a framework that can help us to determine the formal outlines of the ecocriticism we will practice in the coming decades.