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Thoreau’s Corporeal Experience: Proprioceptive Awareness and Ecological Identity in Walden Woods

Authors: Angela Gattuso*, University of Denver
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Landscape
Keywords: ecology, identity, proprioception, landscape, spatial, corporeal, awareness
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores Thoreau’s employment of a "proprioceptive awareness" as means of conveying an ecological conception of identity, a conception which re-situates Thoreau as a poet and naturalist who locates his identity not only in the inner workings and transcendence of the mind, but in the physical relationship with the geographical landscape he inhabits. In developing this argument I expand on the idea of an ecological identity as discussed by Heike Schäfer, who contends that the ecological identity is inherent to and realized through the nature writing genre. While I am not in disagreement with Schäfer, I would like to show that, for Thoreau, the same ecological identity is developed in the moment of experience rather than solely existing within the (nature) writing of that given experience, and that Thoreau achieves this through an acute understanding of where his body is at in physical space and how his body moves through space, that is, through his proprioceptive awareness.

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