Thoreau's Axe: Distraction and Discipline in American Culture
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How nineteenth-century "disciplines of attention" anticipated the contemporary concern with mindfulness and being "spiritual but not religious"
Smith explains that nineteenth-century worries over attention developed in response to what were seen as the damaging mental effects of new technologies and economic systems. A "wandering mind," once diagnosed, was in need of therapy or rehabilitation. Modeling his text after nineteenth-century books of devotion, Smith offers close readings of twenty-eight short passages about attention. Considering social reformers who designed moral training for the masses, religious leaders who organized Christian revivals, and spiritual seekers like Thoreau who experimented with regimens of simplified living and transcendental mysticism, Smith shows how disciplines of attention became the spiritual exercises of a distracted age.
256 pages, Hardcover, January 2023.
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