"It would be better… for the students to lay the foundation themselves."
- Henry David Thoreau
The Thoreau-Harding Project, Fall 2012 ENGL239/INTD288 class at SUNY Geneseo, is constructing a cabin in the spirit of Henry David Thoreau and in tribute to the life work of Professor Walter Harding, Thoreau scholar and beloved SUNY Geneseo educator. The Thoreau-Harding Project will devote our hands, minds, and philosophical gumption to learning deliberately. Our cabin will provide an unconventional experience to supplement the reading of an important American author. This educational approach, learning to build by building deliberately, made sense to Thoreau. Our class aims to take his advice to our own natural conclusion.
Henry David Thoreau's Biography
Born on July 12, 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau carved a name for himself as a leading transcendentalist, philosopher, naturalist, and writer in 19th century America. Under the guidance of his mentor, friend, and fellow transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau began keeping a meticulous journal at the age of 20 to record his musings, poems, and other observations. This journal, though laying the groundwork for his most famous publications such as Walden and Civil Disobedience, has often been regarded as a literary treasure in itself, amounting to 14 volumes worth of material.
Although Thoreau's writings have continued to marvel scientists, literary critics, and the average reader alike, this was a man of simple taste and pleasure: a man who had a knack for getting lost in the woods, enjoyed perusing the morning newspaper in the wake of the rising sun, shared an affinity with all living things, enjoyed working with his hands as much as his mind, and felt just as much at home among the trees, ponds, and wildlife as among the streets of Concord.
Thoreau contracted bronchitis in 1859, and though he fell terminally ill to the disease and died at the age of 44 on May 6, 1862, his legacy continues to inspire environmentalists, politicians, writers, and other readers to reconsider the role of the individual in both society and the natural world.
Walter Harding's Biography
Walter Harding, born in 1917 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was a Distinguished Professor in English at SUNY Geneseo who specialized in the study of the life and work of Henry David Thoreau. His works include twenty-five books and articles on Thoreau and who he associated with. At Geneseo, Harding was the chair of the English Department for six years and was awarded some of SUNY’s highest honors. He later became the first SUNY faculty member to be granted an honorary doctorate from SUNY itself.