MWCC Humanities Project Launches with Series of Events on Thoreau’s Walden

September 9, 2014

Thoreau quote sign

Along the trails at Walden Pond in Concord.

This month, Mount Wachusett Community College launches “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord: Walden and Beyond,” the first year of a multi-year, college and community project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The MWCC Humanities Project will begin with a book discussion on Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau, famed Massachusetts author and the focus of this year’s initiative. Led by MWCC English Professors Michelle Valois and Susan Blake, the discussion will take place Wednesday, Sept. 17 from 6:30 to 8p.m. in the Commons Area of the college’s Gardner campus and is the first in a full slate of free events taking place this fall at venues throughout North Central Massachusetts.

Other upcoming events include a fundraising hike at Wachusett Mountain, a performance by a Thoreau re-enactor, and additional lectures and book discussions on the lasting relevance of Thoreau. Established through a $500,000 challenge grant the college received from the NEH,  the project will continue through 2019 with a new theme each academic year.

In late May, 30 MWCC educators spent a day walking the trails at Walden Pond in Concord, where Thoreau lived in a cabin for two years writing Walden, one of his most famous works. The visit was part of a week-long academy to prepare for the multi-disciplinary learning project devoted to the author’s influence and relevance to today’s students.

“Thoreau considered himself as much a scientist as a poet,” said Professor Valois, chair of the college’s Liberal Arts and Sciences and General Studies department and coordinator of the NEH project. “Thoreau’s scientific observations and inquiries are still relevant today and have given rise to the ‘citizen science’ movement. And as the creator of the modern concept of civil disobedience, Thoreau provides a perfect vehicle for examining the power and responsibility of the individual citizen in a healthy democracy.”

The program will continue with: “What Thoreau Can Teach Us about Climate Change,” a lecture led by Susan Gallagher of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell on Wednesday, Oct. 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Levi Heywood Memorial Library in Gardner; a screening of the film Into the Wild on Tuesday, Oct. 7 from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m. in Room 127 of MWCC Gardner campus; “Thoreau’s Relevance for Our Time,” a lecture led by writer and independent Thoreau scholar Corinne Smith, on Thursday, Oct. 9 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria at the Gardner campus; A Hike for the Humanities matching grant fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 9 a.m., reenacting Thoreau’s 1842 hike at Wachusett Mountain; a book discussion of Tom Montgomery Fate’s Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild on Tuesday, Oct. 28 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Athol Public Library; and a performance by Thoreau re-enactor Richard Smith of the Thoreau Society on Thursday, Oct. 30 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the theater at MWCC’s Gardner campus.

Fall events will continue with a book discussion of Ken Ilgunas’Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom on Nov. 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Leominster Public Library; a lecture on “Thoreau: Eastern Philosophy and Non-Violence,” by Michael Frederick, Executive Director of the Thoreau Society, on Tuesday, Nov. 18 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria at the Gardner campus; and an exhibit with student presentations on Thursday, Dec. 4 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., also at the Gardner campus.

Spring activities will include additional book discussions and a poetry reading. For more information about the program and upcoming events, visit http://mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.