Alda Balthrop-LewisSep 25, 2023
Walden Woods, Social Justice, and the Politics of Asceticism
Cambridge University Press 2021
Balthrop-Lewis's Thoreau's Religion: Walden Woods, Social Justice, and the Politics of Asceticism (Cambridge UP, 2021) presents a ground-breaking interpretation of Henry David Thoreau's most famous book, Walden. Rather than treating Walden Woods as a lonely wilderness, Balthrop-Lewis demonstrates that Thoreau's ascetic life was a form of religious practice dedicated to cultivating a just, multispecies community. The book makes an important contribution to scholarship in religious studies, political theory, English, environmental studies, and critical theory by offering the first sustained reading of Thoreau's religiously motivated politics. In Balthrop-Lewis's vision, practices of renunciation like Thoreau's can contribute to reforming social and political life. This book transforms Thoreau's image, making him a vital source for a world beset by inequality and climate change. Balthrop-Lewis argues for an environmental politics in which ecological flourishing is impossible without economic and social justice.
Alda Balthrop-Lewis is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne. She holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton University and has taught Religious Studies at Brown University. Her research, which focuses on religious ethics and the circulation of ideas among theological, artistic, and popular idioms, has appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and the Journal of Religious Ethics.
Ilana Maymind is a lecturer at the Religious Studies Department at Chapman University.