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Publisher Description

A persistent worry in contemporary environmentalist circles concerns the reception of activists, who research and proclaim theoretical advice on sustainable agricultural practices, by agriculturalists--those who live upon and work the land and develop another knowledge system founded on practical experience. But this tension is not new: it is actually covered in the oft-overlooked "Baker Farm" chapter of Walden. In "Baker Farm," Thoreau's narrator visits the house of John Field, his impoverished Irish immigrant neighbor. During the visit this narrator dispenses a great deal of advice on thoughtful, sustainable living, to a very skeptical audience. What's more, the narrator's tone appears to be out of keeping with the spiritual awareness expressed by Thoreau throughout Walden: unlike that thoughtful narrator, the narrator of "Baker Farm" appears condescending and arrogant. He presses his advice on John Field to the obvious discomfort of Mrs. Field and without much regard for the limitations imposed by the family's hardships, so that many readers have puzzled over exactly how to interpret this short chapter of Walden. This essay offers that "Baker Farm" should be read as satire: the narrator's arrogance is positioned by Thoreau as a comic airing of the author's own anxieties over his role as dispenser of potentially unwelcome theoretical advice. The drama of the Field house, therefore, should be viewed in the light of the conflict between environmental activism and agricultural practice. Chapter after chapter, Thoreau formulates his own thoughts on sustainable living in the relative isolation of his own mind. Like the contemporary environmental activist, however, Thoreau is invested in the reception of his ideas by other practitioners and is anxious to envision reader reactions. "Baker Farm" is in keeping with the punning humor elsewhere in Walden as it allows the author to satirize both himself and other theoreticians while he exorcises his anxiety over the reception of his message. Further, evidence of this ideological divide provides the reader with an opportunity to evaluate the relationship between theory and sustainable life practices. **********

GENRE
Professional & Technical
RELEASED
2004
September 22
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
37
Pages
PUBLISHER
Nineteenth-Century Prose
SIZE
231
KB

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