Unit Syllabus

Can Walden Still Speak to Us Today?

In this unit you will study the concept of transcendentalism and its relevance to today’s world and be able to answer these questions:

transcendenceHave our lives become too complex?

Does society need laws to run effectively, efficiently and justly?

What is our individual responsibility to others and to society as a whole?

How does our interaction with nature shape who we are?

When should individuals be trusted to decide what’s best for themselves?

Why and how has life become so complex? What are the positive and negative aspects of this complexity?

Henry_David_Thoreau“What law ever made man free? Men have got to make the law free. And if a law is wrong by Heaven, it’s the duty of a man to stand up and say so.” – Henry David Thoreau.





Why Every Student in America Should Read  Thoreau’s “Walden”

New England Transcendentalism was a religious, philosophical, and literary movement that began to express itself in New England in the 1830s and continued through the 1840s and 1850s. For several reasons, transcendentalism is not simple to define.

Transcendentalism encompasses complex philosophical and religious ideas. Its tenets are intertwined with a certain mysticism, which defies concise explanation.

Moreover, significant differences of focus and interpretation exist among the Transcendentalists; these differences complicate generalizations about the movement as a whole.

Argumentative vs. Persuasive Essays: What’s the difference?

Learning Activities:

1.  Students will learn  the historical context of literature of the nineteenth century (for example, relevant social, literary, or political context)

  • The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

2.. In order to answer the unit’s questions, students will learn these types of authority:

  1.  Students will also learn to use writing strategies such as:

  • Imagery
  • Symbolism
  • Personal  Anecdotes
  • Metaphor/Similes
  • Call-to-action/plea
  • Admission of fault/self-imperfection
  • Storytelling  Techniques
  • Putting the reader in your shoes
  • Showing Cause & Effect
  • Action Verbs
  • Using dialogue/quotations from others
  • Different Points of View
  • The rules of comma usage

4.  Write a biographical abstract on the background of Henry David Thoreau (as an author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor…)

5. Write a biographical abstract on the background of Ralph Waldo Emerson – (as an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century)

  1. Persuasive Essay: “This I Believe”

  2. Editorial Essay: The Wonders of Wandering

  3. Poetry Pairings: Walt Whitman and Benedict Carey

  4. Transcendental poetry of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman: poetry analysis

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