The Thoreau Society is trying something new for its 2016 Annual Gathering, the 75th since the society was founded by a small group of Thoreauvians led by Walter Harding in 1941. The Society is asking all presenters to consider putting the text of their presentations on Digital Thoreau’s community site for reading Thoreau socially, The Readers’ Thoreau. Readers interested in Thoreau and his times will be able to follow the Annual Gathering’s proceedings online, and Readers’ Thoreau members (membership is free!) will be able to comment on the presentations right in the margin, as they can already do with Walden and “Resistance to Civil Government” (aka “Civil Disobedience”).
The aim is to enrich the conversation, both during and after the Gathering, about the intersection of Thoreau and nineteenth-century literature, history, science, and philosophy, while also giving the world at large a glimpse of the wide-ranging discussion that characterizes the yearly four-day convergence of Thoreauvians in Thoreau’s home town of Concord, MA. Readers’ Thoreau members (did I mention that membership is free?) will be able not only to comment directly on presenters’ texts but also to message one another directly through the site and exchange ideas in a dedicated discussion forum for the 2016 Gathering.
The design of The Readers’ Thoreau network will enable both presenters and commenters to link references to Walden and “Resistance” directly to passages in the network’s editions of these texts, and to add comments on the texts that link directly to the papers from the Gathering.
Some authors have agreed to post copies of their papers even before the Gathering begins, which should make for livelier and more thoughtful face-to-face exchanges in their sessions; others have agreed to post after they’ve had a chance to share their ideas live.
A couple of papers are already up on the site; we’re looking forward to adding more, and to making this kind of sharing and engagement an integral part of future Gatherings.