Harp on the Shore

Thoreau and the Sea

Edited by William Bonner & George R. Levine

Paperback : 9780873959810, 129 pages, June 1985
Hardcover : 9780873959827, 129 pages, June 1985

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Allusions to the sea permeate Thoreau's writings, enriching many of his basic ideas. Harp on the Shore examines Thoreau's use of maritime metaphor. It shows how he, a writer ordinarily perceived as quintessentially landlocked, came to view the terrestrial world in terms of the oceanic.

The book explores both the poetic and the philosophical implications of Thoreau's passion for the sea. Beginning with Thoreau's deep attachment to the sea and maritime life in New England and the ways in which that attachment stimulated his imaginative identification of Concord as a center of maritime activity, it examines the sea voyage as a symbol of man's intellectual processes. The book shows how maritime allusions enlarge the significance of Thoreau's ideas about man's struggle to attain individuality and identity, his notion of Homeric or Edenic man, and his belief in a middle ground where many could and should stand—between the natural and the civilized, the individual and the group.

Willard H. Bonner was the James H. McNulty Professor of English at State University of New York at Buffalo. His work on Thoreau reflected a lifelong interest in the literary traditions and the maritime history of New England. Bonner died in 1980. George R. Levine is Professor of English at State University of New York at Buffalo.