This major study brings to light Thoreau's relation to the complex economic discourse of his time and place. Specifically, it examines the impact of transformations in economic thinking and behavior that occurred in antebellum New England and America; these transformations at the level of language; and Thoreau's awareness of these transformations. Neufeldt situates Thoreau in significant economic conditions of his time, investigating how these conditions contained him even as he sought to contain them. Using Walden and "Life without Principle," as main examples, the book considers the questions of why and how Thoreau, who was very much shaped by his culture and its conventions, also contested the limitations of those conventions and used his condition to transform some of them. Thoreau's identity as a literary artist who regarded his writing as his cultural vocation is at the center of the discussion.
"A significant contribution to Henry Thoreau scholarship."--Journal of Economic History
"Neufelt succeeds in bringing to bear in his reading of Thoreau a semantic web of American "culture" complete with its jaded cliches, rapturous dreams, and business homilies. The result is a more animated Thoreau who adamantly writes with a resisting voice at the beginning of the great age of American capitalist enterprise. Let us hope this trend for Thoreau scholarship continues."--Modern Philology
"Neufeldt convincingly shows how imperative it is that readers of Waldon know the lexicon of enterprise out of which and aginst which it was written."--New England Quarterly
"Neufeldt is moving Thoreau studies in important new directions....Impressive in showing how Thoreau was influenced and shaped by his culture and hwo he rejected or contested many aspects of that culture....This sophisticated and elegant work is thoroughly researched and well indexed. Highly recommended for undergraduate and graduate literary collections."--Choice