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Abstract Detail

Bryological and Lichenological Section/ABLS

Bergmann, Hans [1].

"I Have Become Sadly Scientific": Henry David Thoreau's Lichenology.

I explain that Henry David Thoreau studied Concord (MA) lichens and show how that his newly scientific interest marked a fundamental change in his thinking and writing from *Walden* (1854) on until his early death in 1862. The central question I pursue is how Thoreau’s study of Linnaeus’s “poor trash” of vegetation became for him a way to remake his already well-developed attention to nature into a more precise as well as imaginative practice. Botanists have long known of Thoreau’s interest in lichens but have treated it as amateurish; literary scholars for their part have only recently paid much attention to his later works at all and have not commented significantly on his lichenology. Thoreau found lichens a particularly appropriate subject for his new writing: they are quotidian, ordinary, often completely overlooked, and yet they are full of imaginative and scientific significance. Thoreau, influenced certainly by Alexander von Humboldt, as well as by American botanists and transcendental writers, was working toward a synthesis between literature and science. Thoreau’s lichenology marks the change in his writing at the same time as it illuminates the continuing division between the “two cultures” of the arts and sciences.

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1 - Quinnipiac University, English, 275 Mount Carmel Avenue, Hamden, CT, 06518, USA

Thoreau, Henry David
arts and sciences
von Humboldt.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 16
Location: Salon 11/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Monday, July 27th, 2015
Time: 1:30 PM
Number: 16001
Abstract ID:321
Candidate for Awards:None

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