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BackStory examines our desire to be alone

BackStoryBackStory, an American history podcast produced by Virginia Humanities, releases “When You Just Want to be Alone: The History of Solitude in America.”

What is the history of solitude in America? How are experiments on dolphins connected with consciousness raising and isolation tanks? And what does Thoreau’s solitary experiment at Walden Pond have to teach us all in the digital age? On this episode of BackStory, Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh and Joanne Freeman examine the reasons Americans seek solitude.

Joining Ayers, Balogh and Freeman are Eric SlauterLaura Dassow WallsJace Weaver and D. Graham Burnett.

  • Slauter is associate professor in the department of English language at University of Chicago. His scholarship focuses chiefly on transformations in political thought and behavior in the eighteenth century.
  • Walls is the author of “Henry David Thoreau: A Life.” She is a professor at University of Notre Dame.
  • Weaver is director of Institute of Native American Studies at University of Georgia. He is the author or editor of thirteen books, including “That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community.”
  • Burnett is a historian of science and a professor of history at Princeton University. He is the author of “Keywords; For Further Consideration and Particularly Relevant to Academic Life” and a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities.

“When You Just Want to be Alone: The History of Solitude in America,” is available now. Find it and every episode of BackStory on the website ( or on popular podcatchers including iTunes, Spotify and Google. BackStory publishes every week at noon and is available for free.

augusta free press
augusta free press