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Apocalyptic GeographiesReligion, Media, and the American Landscape$
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Jerome Tharaud

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691200101

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691200101.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 02 December 2021

Cosmic Modernity

Cosmic Modernity

Henry David Thoreau, the Missionary Memoir, and the Heathen Within

Chapter:
(p.184) 5 Cosmic Modernity
Source:
Apocalyptic Geographies
Author(s):

Jerome Tharaud

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691200101.003.0006

This chapter talks about Henry David Thoreau's Walden from 1854, which is a parody of a popular evangelical genre, the missionary memoir. It elaborates how reading Walden recovers a conception of “cosmic modernity” that challenges recent accounts of a secularized global modernity. It also discusses Thoreau's polemical engagement with missionary culture in the context of the transcendentalist project of comparative religion, which dramatizes how the modern encounter with global religious difference catalyzed new conceptions of the local and new spiritual communities. The chapter accepts Thoreau's wry invitation to read Walden through the lens of Protestant missionary discourse. It shows how the evangelical mediascape shaped parts of antebellum literary culture, which could not be further from the concerns of evangelical authors and readers.

Keywords:   Henry David Thoreau, Walden, missionary memoir, secularized global modernity, evangelical mediascape, antebellum literary culture

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