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Visions of the Land

Science, Literature, and the American Environment from the Era of Exploration to the Age of Ec

Michael A. Bryson

Publication Year: 2002

Visions of the Land explores how our environmental attitudes have influenced and been shaped by various scientific perspectives from the time of western expansion and geographic exploration in the mid-nineteenth century to the start of the contemporary environmental movement in the twentieth century. Bryson offers a literary-critical analysis of how writers of different backgrounds, scientific training, and geographic experiences represented nature through various kinds of natural science, from natural history to cartography to resource management to ecology and evolution, and in the process, explored the possibilities and limits of science itself.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

Many friends and colleagues read parts or all of this manuscript, provided helpful and insightful advice, and supplied muchneeded moral support during this project. My graduate mentor, Susan Squier, provided inspiration and guidance throughout my initial research, on-the-mark criticisms of various drafts, timely

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xvii

This book investigates the connections between the representation of nature and the practice of science in America from the 1840s to the 1960s, as explored in the texts of seven American writers: John Charles Frémont, Richard Byrd, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, John Wesley Powell, Susan Cooper, Rachel Carson, and Loren Eiseley. In one...

▪Part 1▪: Narratives of Exploration and the Scientist-Hero

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Chapter One: “I Saw Visions”: John Charles Frémont and the Explorer-Scientist as Nineteenth-Century Hero

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pp. 3-31

In nineteenth-century America, science was not confined to the laboratory, bound up in a mythos of isolation and otherworldliness, inaccessible to the public mind. Rather, science quite often denoted “action” in the rapidly expanding United States. The practice of natural history and...

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Chapter Two: “The Evidence of My Ruin”: Richard Byrd’s Antarctic Sojourn

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pp. 32-53

Nearly a century after Frémont’s 1842 expedition to the Rocky Mountains, aviation pioneer and polar explorer Richard Evelyn Byrd set out to do some serious science on the Ross Ice Barrier in Antarctica. As part of his second expedition to the southernmost continent, he stayed alone at a remote weather station—named Bolling...

▪Part 2▪: Imagined Communities and the Scientific Management of Nature

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Chapter Three: “A Strange and Terrible Woman Land”: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Scientific Utopia

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pp. 57-79

While the exploration narratives of Frémont and Byrd produce a complex portrait of the individual within nature—a perspective through which we gain insight into the relations among masculinity, heroism, science, and the environment—the writings of Charlotte Perkins Gilman shift the discussion...

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Chapter Four: “A Unit of Country Well Defined in Nature”: John Wesley Powell and the Scientific Management of the American West

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pp. 80-101

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s fictional utopia illustrates the tension, on one hand, between an emerging ecological view of nature and the valuation of wilderness and, on the other, the ability of science and technology to control and even reshape the natural environment. This...

▪Part 3▪: Nature’s Identity and the Critique of Science

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Chapter Five: “The Earth Is the Common Home of All”: Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Investigations of a Settled Landscape

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pp. 105-133

From within the forests of central New York State in the mid-1800s, a land of expansive woodlands, rolling hills, quiet lakes, and small but growing communities, writer and naturalist Susan Fenimore Cooper published a book entitled Rural Hours (1850), which described the local environment and rural customs

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Chapter Six: “The Relentless Drive of Life”: Rachel Carson’s and Loren Eiseley’s Reformulation of Science and Nature

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pp. 134-173

Though Susan Fenimore Cooper witnessed significant changes to the landscape of her home county during the nineteenth century— the loss of old-growth forests, the decline in numbers of certain wildlife species, the increase in both cultivated land and human population— the genteel naturalist scarcely could have...

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Afterword

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pp. 175-180

From the vantage point of 2001, as I sit writing at my desk at home in Chicago, nature seems to be more than ever a place of contested agendas and representations—at times a site of renewal and at others a place of continued exploitation. On one hand, within this sprawling, heavily industrialized urban region, nature is undergoing a revival...

Notes

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pp. 181-200

Bibliography

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pp. 201-214

Index

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pp. 215-228

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813921723
E-ISBN-10: 0813921724
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813921068
Print-ISBN-10: 0813921066

Page Count: 228
Illustrations: 4 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Landscapes in literature.
  • Ecology in literature.
  • American literature -- History and criticism.
  • Environmental literature -- History and criticism.
  • Literature and science -- United States -- History.
  • Environmental protection in literature.
  • Wilderness areas in literature.
  • Nature in literature.
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