This essay questions a critical consensus about Thoreau's first book, A Week on the Concord an Merrimack Rivers, as a pastoral elegy for his brother and best friend, John. Reading A Week from a geographical perspective, this essay argues that Thoreau anticipated professional geographers by eighty years in conducting a dynamic analysis of the transformation of New England's landscape. Thoreau re-creates through description and narration the appearance and disappearance of the pastoral, the Native-American, and the industrailized landscape along the two rivers. Presenting these ladnscapes in dynamic interrelation with one another against the backdrop of New England's still wild nature, Thoreau historicizes New England's changing topography and thereby criticizes the American pastoral myth about a timeless "golden age" of the "New English Canaan." This reading encourages us to regard Thoreau not only as a private literary artist but also as a scientist and social satirist. This essay also reveals Thoreau's geographic imagination, an important aspect of his mind that has been overlooked so far by Thoreau critics and the general reading public alike.
Yu, Ning, "Thoreau's Critique of the American Pastoral in A Week" (1996). English. 5.