The Science of the Field Notes

Patrick Chura

in Thoreau the Land Surveyor

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780813034935
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038278 | DOI:
The Science of the Field Notes

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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Describing his work in a manner that repeatedly focuses on his unconventional methods and nonacquisitive purposes, Thoreau relates significant discoveries about seed dispersal and tree succession made while surveying. In doing so, he inculcates an argument that emphasizes the benefits of surveying and mitigates its potentially destructive effects. Within Thoreau's assertions that “oaks almost invariably die if the pines are not cut,” and that by the harvesting of pines “we find ourselves at last doing as Nature does,” some critics have detected a somewhat defensive plea for recognition of the ways the speaker's own role in deforestation conforms to an underlying design.

Keywords: field notes; oaks; pines; scientific research; forest trees; deforestation

Chapter.  9910 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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