Courtney A. Floyd, “‘Always the same unrememberable revelation’: Thoreau’s Telegraph Harp, the Development of an Immanent Romantic Secularism, and Golden Age Children’s Literature” (pp. 30–53)
In this essay, I analyze Henry David Thoreau’s references to and use of the telegraph, Aeolian harp, and telegraph harp in his journals between the years 1851 and 1853, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), and Walden (1854). I argue that the figure of the telegraph harp, though only briefly mentioned in Thoreau’s published works, represents a significant reworking of Romantic sensibility into a modern, immanent, and secular narrative of mundane transcendence that undergirds his particular transcendentalism. Thoreau obfuscates the material modernity of the telegraph harp even as he rescripts its very materiality. His diction in passages about the telegraph harp implies a sort of transcendence but grounds that transcendence in the natural landscape and a physical symbol of modern technology, establishing a conceptual legacy that informs not only second-generation transcendentalism, but also and unexpectedly, Golden Age children’s literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.