Please join us for the Third Annual Henry David Thoreau Honorary Lecture on Thursday, April 18 at 5 pm in 235 Decio. Professor François Specq will lecture on "Abolitionist Dissent and Thoreau's Sense of History."
Specq is Professeur de littérature des États-Unis / Professor of American Literature and Culture at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, focusing on the nineteenth century (American Transcendentalism [esp. Thoreau], Antislavery and Abolitionism, and Women’s Rights), as well as literature and the environment.
Readings of Thoreau’s political writings have mostly revolved around his appeal to the rights of conscience vs. political authority, with special emphasis on “Resistance to Civil Government.” This talk, focusing on what is arguably the most self-conflicted of Thoreau's political writings, “Slavery in Massachusetts” (1854), seeks to demonstrate that Thoreau's complex dissent from mainstream Antebellum politics was predicated not only on his notion of the individual's relation to the polity, but also on his sense of history. Thoreau viewed unquestioning acquiescence to state power as part of a broader attitude toward history that sees historical forces as superseding individual action and conscience. Contributing his own philosophical framework to the abolitionist movement, he calls for a renewed historical consciousness, one that does not see history as synchronic and immanent, but as resulting from individual choices.
The lecture is sponsored by the English Department, the American Studies Department, the Department of Africana Studies, Sustainability Studies, and the White Chair.