On Henry David Thoreau of Concord, Mass.—Laura Dassow Walls, Notre Dame

Henry David Thoreau

To celebrate our season one finale, we’re giving you an episode that’s a little longer than usual featuring an award-winning author who’s written a book about one of the most prominent figures in American literature.

Her name is Laura Dassow Walls, and her book is Henry David Thoreau: A Life, published in 2017 by The University of Chicago Press.

Holding an endowed chair in Notre Dame’s Department of English, Laura received fellowships from both the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of her work on the book, the first full-length, comprehensive biography of Thoreau in a generation. Earlier this year it was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography.

In talking with Laura, many sides of Thoreau emerge: writer, abolitionist, leader in the Transcendental religious movement, and so on. Just as importantly, though, it becomes clear there is one thing that he was not: the Walden Pond hermit of our imaginations.