In the Nick of Time: Thoreau's "Present" Experiment as a Colloquy of East and West

in Religion and the Arts
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Abstract

A central expression of the thematic structure of Henry David Thoreau's first two books, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden, and essential to several of the epiphanies that famously appear there, are his meditations on the nature and significance of time. Seldom, however, have these richly conceived passages been considered other than through strictly literary eyes. The objective of this essay is to examine the theological implications of Thoreau's representations of time with particular reference to two classical treatments that seem of particular relevance here: those found in Augustine's Confessions and the Hindu classic, the Bhagavad Gita. The purpose of this discussion is two-fold: to consider the theological cogency of Thoreau's treatment of time for its own sake and to reconsider Thoreau's position with respect to two theological traditions of which he was arguably an heir.

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