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Title:Thoreau's Orientalism: A study of Confucian and Taoist elements in Thoreau's readings and writings
Author(s):Kim, Eui-Yeong
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Tikku, Giridhari
Department / Program:Comparative and World Literature
Discipline:Comparative and World Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Literature, Asian
Religion, Philosophy of
Literature, American
Abstract:This study is a comparative attempt to elucidate the influences on Thoreau of the Orient, particularly Confucianism and Taoism, which has not received a systematic, scholarly treatment so far. In placing this discussion within the comparative tradition, the effort is oriented toward the emphasis on influences rather than rapprochement.
Since Oriental writings became known to America via Europe, the first part of this dissertation makes a brief study of Romanticism and Oriental Renaissance in Europe and then its impact on the growth of American Transcendentalism. In this study, the exposure to and incorporation of Oriental elements in both New England Transcendentalism and European Romanticism have been seen from a comparative perspective.
The second part of this dissertation explores the Chinese elements in New England Transcendentalism, particularly Thoreau. It gives the chronology of Thoreau's exposure to and use of Oriental sources, and his borrowing and identification of Confucianism and Taoism in his writings.
In the tradition of Thoreauvian scholarship, the study of the Confucian canon in Thoreau has been, for the most part, slighted or regarded as a dead end. To justify the belief that the Chinese tradition formed the basis of an organic part of Thoreau's Orientalism, a part of this study tries to shed some light on the unique presence of Confucianism in his college essays, the Journals, and two books.
Besides the humanistic philosophy of Confucius, Thoreau's life-long goal bears a close parallel to the mystical inclination of the Chinese Taoists. However, because of the absence of evidence that Thoreau read Taoist literature, the canonical notions of Taoism in Thoreau's works have been ascribed to mere coincidences or associated with a result of his reading of Hindu, Confucian, and Buddhist works. But there are several convincing pieces of evidence proving that Thoreau must, in one way or another, have been acquainted with Taoist literature. With this evidence, some significant parallels between the Taoists' and Thoreau's thoughts are investigated to claim that the Taoist ideas should be treated as "influences" rather than "parallels."
Issue Date:1991
Rights Information:Copyright 1991 Kim, Eui-Yeong
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9124441
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9124441

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