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By Patrick Chura

WINNER OF THE 2012 DASHER AWARD FOR remarkable LITERARY SCHOLARSHIP

Henry David Thoreau, one among America's such a lot sought after environmental writers, supported himself as a land surveyor for far of his existence, parceling land that might be offered off to loggers. within the purely learn of its sort, Patrick Chura analyzes this seeming contradiction to teach how the easiest surveyor in harmony mixed civil engineering with civil disobedience.

Placing Thoreau's surveying in ancient context, Thoreau the Land Surveyor explains the cultural and ideological implications of surveying paintings within the mid-nineteenth century. Chura explains the ways in which Thoreau's environmentalist disposition and philosophical convictions asserted themselves at the same time he lowered the land to measurable phrases and acted as an agent for bringing it lower than proprietary regulate. He additionally describes intimately Thoreau's 1846 survey of Walden Pond. through settling on the origins of Walden in--of all places--surveying info, Chura re-creates a formerly misplaced helping manuscript of this American classic.

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In the process of addressing the “dilemma every surveyor has faced”— a landowner who assumes the surveyor will tailor his work to maximize the owner’s profit—Savage claims a fundamental experiential kinship with Thoreau. Thoreau epitomized the professional who took spiritual satisfaction from work performed the “most correct” way rather than the way that would give his client the most land. He serves as a reminder to his descendants in the profession that they must “tell the truth . . ”  In the field, as in his literary efforts, Thoreau’s standards were impeccable; his first allegiance was neither to the rapacity of his clients nor to civilizing processes but to his sense of integrity.

As Chase notes, Thoreau’s surveying assistants 16 g thoreau the land surveyor were a varied and interesting lot. Sometimes a property owner or one of his hired hands carried the surveying chain, sometimes an illiterate Irish immigrant, but his chain bearers also included his great friend Bronson Alcott and Concord sheriff Sam Staples. Concerning Thoreau’s attitude toward his work, Chase speculated that he “tolerated surveying because it allowed him to observe nature” and quoted journal passages in which surveying and environmental sensitivity coexist.

In geometric terms, the shift of orientation to true north was slight, turning the document only about nine degrees eastward from its original position. Where the document’s internal narrative was concerned, however, the change was radical. Maps and land surveys were and are documents meant to establish and preserve certain social, economic and political circumstances. 2. “Walden Pond. ” Lithograph: original plate by S. W. , Boston. The image appeared opposite page 307 in the first edition of Walden.

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