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Forests : The Shadow of Civilization - Robert Pogue Harrison


The Shadow of Civilization

Paperback Published: 1st January 1992
ISBN: 9780226318073
Number Of Pages: 304

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In this wide-ranging exploration of the role of forests in Western thought, Robert Pogue Harrison enriches our understanding not only of the forest's place in the cultural imagination of the West, but also of the ecological dilemmas that now confront us so urgently. Consistently insightful and beautifully written, this work is especially compelling at a time when the forest, as a source of wonder, respect, and meaning, disappears daily from the earth.
""Forests" is one of the most remarkable essays on the human place in nature I have ever read, and belongs on the small shelf that includes Raymond Williams' masterpiece, "The Country and the City." Elegantly conceived, beautifully written, and powerfully argued, "Forests"] is a model of scholarship at its passionate best. No one who cares about cultural history, about the human place in nature, or about the future of our earthly home, should miss it.--William Cronon, "Yale Review"
""Forests" is, among other things, a work of scholarship, and one of immense value . . . one that we have needed. It can be read and reread, added to and commented on for some time to come."--John Haines, "The New York Times Book Review"

A thoughtful consideration by Harrison (French and Italian Literature/Stanford) of the role that forests have played in the cultural imagination of the West. Though avowedly "selective" - "I wanted to avoid at all costs a mere encyclopedic catalog of the forest theme" - Harrison's inquiry ranges wide, from Dionysus through Dante and Descartes to Thoreau, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Samuel Beckett - whose bleak essentialism, the author says, better reflects our depleted times than does James Joyce's "luxuriant forest of prose." Beginning with 18th-century Italian theorist Giovanni Battista Vico's imagining that the origin of human thought and institutions began with forest-dwelling giants, Harrison shows how the founding legends of Rome looked back to the forest, as the opposite of city and civilization, with a paradoxical mix of reverence and hostility that continues today. Reaching further back, to the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh, Harrison points out its hero's destructive impulse toward the forest in response to an agonizing consciousness of death; later, the author ingeniously identifies the Greek goddess Artemis with the related roots of the words for matter, wood, forest, and mother. From the Christian analogy of forests with darkness, bestiality, and perdition, he gets to the Grimm brothers' nostalgic "philological mystification" of German forests in their association with a lost cultural and national unity. As for current concerns about deforestation and ecology, the author demonstrates that these attitudes, "which we do not fully understand," have extensive buried and tangled roots. Harrison's original and perspicacious excavation brings cultural resonance and suggestive thought to today's ecological issues. (Kirkus Reviews)

First the Forests
Shadows of Law
Forests of Nostalgia
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780226318073
ISBN-10: 0226318079
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 1st January 1992
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.8 x 15.6  x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.49
Edition Type: New edition