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Sharing Henry David Thoreau's Walden with her undergraduates has always been a high point of Senior Lecturer Kathryn Warren's semester. But when she spent two weeks in Thoreau's hometown of Concord, MA, as a 2017 Summer Fellow with the National Endowment for the Humanities, Dr. Warren discovered just how much she and her students were missing. Swimming in Walden Pond as the sun came up, walking the paths on which Henry and his friend Mr. Emerson talked transcendentalism, hearing the same birdsong and spotting the same flowers in the same fields . . . all these physical experiences made Dr. Warren start to wonder whether reading Thoreau in the concrete expanses of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex might be akin to listening to the Beatles with only one stereo speaker working: an attenuated and muffled aesthetic experience. How can a reader so far from Concord fully appreciate Thoreau?
Dr. Warren’s essay "Taking Thoreau to Texas," which appears in the most recent Concord Saunterer (the Thoreau Society journal), tackles this question and meditates on the merits of place-based instruction. Hers is one of several essays in the Saunterer's "Teaching Thoreau at 200" roundtable assembled to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Thoreau's birth.