In a graceful and personal way, Jane Bennett offers a reading of Thoreau that is fresh and intellectually provocative. Most broadly, the book is important because it is sensitive to Thoreau's claim on our attention: it shows the 'postmodern' resonance of his concerns with self-fashioning and care of self, with the experience and representation of nature, with the power and limits of art. Of more specific importance is Bennett's exploration of the political bearing of the avowedly 'anti-political' ethos that Thoreau shapes from these concerns. In this regard, she uses her own ambivalence about Thoreau in a way that exemplifies the fruitfulness of intellectual honesty: she reads with and against Thoreau, to hold in tension his untimely idealism, and the genealogical critique she discloses in an extended discussion of Kafka. Bennett's reading of Thoreau, then, serves to articulate a political ethos that both defends and chastens political commitment. The result is a special book that theorizes politics by taking seriously the insights of literature and the practices of art. -- George Shulman, New York University Well-written, provocative, and altogether one of the most interesting books on Thoreau to come out in the past decade. Perhaps this fascinating volume will now get the attention it deserves. Thoreau Society Bulletin This remarkable book rescues Thoreau from readers intent upon reducing him to a sentimental nature-worshipper. By re-examining his writing in a series of dialogues with a wide array of postmodern critics, contemporary writers, and nature philosophers, Bennett elegantly represents Thoreau as an important thinker of subtle complexity and radical insight. Bennett's reading of Thoreau is a striking achievement that will revitalize discussion about the interpretations given to the realms of 'nature' or 'wilderness' in contemporary debates about ethics and politics. -- Timothy W. Luke, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
About the Author
Jane Bennett is a political theorist at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the author of The Enchantment of Modern Life and a coordinating editor of Theory & Event.