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MLA 2023 (San Francisco) Call for Papers

The Thoreau Society at the Modern Language Association, 2023 (San Francisco)

Title of Session: “Transcendentalism, Spirituality, and Social Justice”

In Thoreau’s Religion: Walden Woods, Social Justice, and the Politics of Asceticism (2021), Alda Balthrop-Lewis offers us an opportunity to reaffirm Walden, not as a tale of pessimistic isolationism, as some would have it, but as a call for community—a community that includes both the human and the non-human, for it is only by acknowledging the agency of all beings can environmental justice be achieved. We invite papers that engage with one of Thoreau’s Religion many entwined topics, such as activism and politics, aesthetics, civil life, ecotheory, environmental justice, ethics, forms of asceticism, and spirituality. Alda Balthrop-Lewis will participate in the conversation as a respondent.

Please submit proposals of around 200 words for 10-minute presentations by 14 March to Kathleen Coyne Kelly (

I went to the woods because I wish to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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