Caleb Smith is professor of English at Yale University and the author of The Prison and the American Imagination (2009) andThe Oracle and the Curse (2013). He is working on a new book about disciplines of attention.
Thoreau’s generative ambivalence, the reason we keep returning to him, comes from a specific move he makes, over and over again. Thoreau does something very particular for us. He recasts problems of political economy as ethical questions about the conduct of life.