This website uses cookies to understand how you use the website and to improve your experience. By continuing to use the website, you accept the University of New England’s use of cookies and similar technologies. To learn more about our use of cookies and how to manage your browser cookie settings, please review our Privacy Notice.


Walden, the Humanities, and the Classroom as Public Space

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Kristen Case in front of bookcase

Kristen Case

Assistant Professor of English, University of Maine at Farmington

Defenses of the humanities against charges of irrelevance and elitism usually come in one of two forms: a practical argument on behalf of the in-demand skill-set afforded by a broad humanistic education, or an idealistic one about the intrinsic value of literature and philosophy “for their own sake.” This lecture will question the dualism upheld by both types of response by examining the ethical and political stakes of the continued existence of physical humanities classrooms in the public university. As recent attacks on humanities programs at public universities and the growing prevalence of online courses have made clear, such classrooms are more and more seen as luxuries that public universities and their students can’t afford. Using a discussion of Thoreau’s Walden as her point of departure, Case will argue for both the practical and ethical (though not always quantifiable) value of humanities classrooms and of the critical questions asked within them.


Kristen Case teaches courses in American Literature, environmental writing, and the intersection of 20th- and 21st-century American literature and philosophy at the University of Maine Farmington. She has published articles on Henry David Thoreau, Robert Frost and Ezra Pound and is the author of American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe (Camden House, 2011). Her poems have appeared in Chelsea, The Brooklyn Review, Pleiades, Saint Ann’s Review, The Iowa Review, Wave Composition, and Eleven Eleven. Her chapbook, Temple, is forthcoming from Miel Books. She is the editor of The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies. Her essay, “The Other Public Humanities” recently appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Assigned Reading

Henry David Thoreau, Walden


A reception will be held at 5:00 pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4435

Kristen Case Event Poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public