The perfect example of what not to do?

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 Thoreau had a decent start I thought. He at least had a thesis that seemed to fit the proper mold. Water as the absent signifier seems to be the sort of thesis that we've all been striving twoards. It was certainly non obvious and, though Thoreau argues it, it is debatable. However, I think that Thoreau begins to fail as the article goes on.

First and foremost, there's the simple fact that the diction made my eyes bleed and the syntax put me to sleep. The author routinely makes up words such as "metamor-phosed" and brings up terms that are often unfamiliar to the reader such as "neo-baconian atlantis"

But still, the real problem with the paper is that he does exactly what Dr. Jerz has taught us not to do. We are supposed to make a claim about the work itself, not use the work to make a claim about history; which is exactly what the author has done. He is using first The Grapes of Wrath and then details about Steinbeck's life and other books to make a claim about poor government decisions in the depression era.  A few pages in he leaves the novel behind and starts quoting biograpbhies of Steinbeck or works that are historical analysis.

Overall, as I read te article I got the impression that it was being written by person with the intelligence of a Grad Student but the maturity of a high schooler. The vocabulary is advanced, the idea is thought out and the claim is both mature and well proved. However it simply doesn't relate to the work enough.

That being said, it's possible that Throeau didn't WANT it to relate to the work. It is possible that he simply wanted to write an article that was a historical criticism and used Steinbeck as a main point of focus. If that was his intention, then I apologize to him for my critique. But I got the impression that he was attempting to analyze Steinbec using history, and if that was the case then I'm afraid he did it backwards.



I agree that this article was some pretty tough reading. However, this article was written for a selective audience of experts in the literary field, who would probably understand terms like "neo-Baconian" (I assume it relates to an ideology of someone named Bacon. I don't know. I like bacon, it's tasty.) The academic articles that I've read before do seem to go off-topic or get lost in long tangents. However, I think it's also important to remember that people writing academic articles have a lot more room in which they can discuss things, as opposed to your standard undergraduate 3- or 5-page paper where you have to stick to the central topic and keep all the expository information and related tangents to a minimum. I think it's probably okay to take into account how certain things may have been perceived in the environment the author wrote in, but trying to support a claim about a work with how people reacted to the work afterwards seems a little more iffy.

Andrew Adams said:

I was thinking the same thing when it came to him proving reality with fiction, in fact two fictions in my opinion. That is he tried to prove reality with the Bible and The Grapes of Wrath. However, I would like to point out that Henry David Thoreau did not write this article, David Cassuto did. It would be pretty impossible for Thoreau to write the article a good 80 or so years after he was already six feet under. I also agree with Matt that it was probably written for people who would understand his references, and not freshman college students in a core class. I also felt like he strayed away from his point a little too much, but that's just me.

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