Jonathan van Belle on What Work Meant to Thoreau
From The History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today?
Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
The evidence is clear: Henry David Thoreau was an industrious person who worked hard throughout his life. And yet, he’s often viewed as a kind of dreamy layabout who dropped out of society so he could sit by his pond and think his thoughts. Can we reconcile these two figures? What did work mean to Thoreau? And what advice did he have for the rest of us? In this episode, Jacke talks to Thoreau scholar Jonathan van Belle about the new book he’s co-authored, Henry at Work: Thoreau on Making a Living. PLUS Andrew Pettegree (The Book at War: How Reading Shaped Conflict and Conflict Shaped Reading) stops by to discuss his choice for the last book he will ever read.