Cover Page

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-2

Reimagining Environmental History presents an ecocritical study examining representations of landscape change, from nineteenth-century artistnaturalists to pioneering ecologists to twentieth-century poets, Native American novelists, and contemporary literary naturalists associated with the Midwest. While the scope is expansive in terms of period and genre, the volume as a whole is unified by focusing on the depiction of environmental history in the region. Many of the authors addressed cross-conventional disciplinary and cultural boundaries: whether they are artists writing about...

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Prologue: Opening with Thoreau

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pp. 3-8

On a midwinter day in January 1855, Henry David Thoreau noted in his journal that he had been reading environmental history again. On this occasion, he was perusing an early seventeenth-century account of New England’s natural resources published by William Wood. New England’s Prospect was the sort of tract intended to beguile potential colonists with images of fabulous abundance— the fabled bounty of the New World— while tantalizing investors who might underwrite the requisite ships for shuttling settlers and then carrying back furs, commercial cargo, including....

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1. The Making of a Conservationist: John James Audubon (1785–1851)

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pp. 9-41

Best remembered for his precise and highly expressive paintings of wildlife, perhaps John James Audubon’s most profound legacy, beyond a prodigious body of artwork and publications, is the ideal of conservation itself. While his achievements as consummate artist, accomplished naturalist, and aspiring entrepreneur are widely recognized, his contributions as author and conservationist remain less fully appreciated. His writings are certainly less well known, yet as author and environmentalist Scott Russell Sanders points out, “During the years when he was feverishly painting the...

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2. Envisioning Restoration: Gene Stratton-Porter (1863–1924)

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pp. 42-71

Gene Stratton-Porter’s prescient appraisal of midwestern environmental history informed her work as naturalist, photographer, novelist, and conservationist. Her lifelong aesthetic and spiritual appreciation for nature was deepened through a keen awareness of ongoing ecological decline. Born in 1863, she witnessed the escalating pace of landscape change on the edge of settlement and development in Indiana at the end of the nineteenth century. The trajectory of her career progressed from reverence for verdant wetlands to lament for destruction of such vital habitat. The...

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3. To Live in the Wilderness as a Wild Creature Myself: Paul Errington (1902–1962)

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pp. 72-90

Accounts of landscape change in the Upper Midwest by pioneering ecologist Paul Errington can be read as capsule environmental histories, yet also represent a cautionary tale: how unchecked development had rapidly stripped so many verdant wetlands of their especially rich biodiversity. Along with other wildlife biologists in the vanguard of ecological thought at its inception during the first half of the twentieth century, he helped to fashion a vision of conservation, particularly in response to the ongoing transformation of prairies for agricultural use.1 What seems prescient is...

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4. The Wilds That Gave Us Birth: Scott Russell Sanders (B. 1945)

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pp. 91-115

In reading landscapes for their environmental history, contemporary midwestern literary naturalists advance the legacy of pioneering ecologists, particularly Aldo Leopold, who grasped the fundamental ecological precept that preserving the diversity of indigenous species helps to ensure the stability and resilience of a biotic community. Scott Russell Sanders is well aware that he carries the environmental torch passed down in our national literature. Contemplating the roots of environmental ethics, he suggests that “the greatest theme in American literature is the search for right...

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5. Poetics of Place in “North American Sequence”: Theodore Roethke (1908–1963)

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pp. 116-131

While Theodore Roethke’s groundbreaking early volumes of poetry demonstrated a striking attunement to nature instilled during his youth in Michigan, this sensibility would not reach its ultimate expression until his final collection, The Far Field, and particularly the ecopoetic epic “North American Sequence.” Imaginatively traversing the entire continent, the sequence embodies a poetics of place, consolidating a lifetime’s keen observation of nature, configured here as a transcontinental trek. In the course of this “journey” spanning the Great Plains and the Teton Range, stretching...

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6. Landscapes of the Past: William Stafford (1914–1993)

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pp. 132-149

William Stafford’s poetry is distinguished by a reverence for nature instilled during his upbringing on the grasslands of Kansas. His first two collections contain some of his most celebrated and enduring work: West of Your City, followed by Traveling Through the Dark, which garnered a National Book Award and established his reputation as a major voice among twentieth-century American poets. Both books were profoundly grounded in landscapes of the past and show a pronounced influence of formative...

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7. Landscape and Language: Louise Erdrich (B. 1954)

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pp. 150-174

Louise Erdrich is one of the most accomplished and highly esteemed of contemporary Native American writers. The National Book Award she received in 2012 for The Roundhouse confirmed her place among the nation’s major novelists. This chapter addresses a work especially important to her ongoing exploration of identity in relation to her Ojibwe heritage, Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country, her second memoir, published in 2003. Her account of a canoe trip on the Boundary Waters of southern Ontario, Canada, known as Lake of the Woods, is essentially autobiographical, although...

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8. Giving Voice to History: Diane Glancy (B. 1941)

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pp. 175-193

Beginning with her first published volume of prose, Traveling On, in the early 1980s, Cherokee poet and novelist Diane Glancy has emerged as a major Native American voice, a remarkably prolific and highly versatile writer who has published twenty volumes of fiction, as many collections of poetry, and nearly a dozen plays, as well as several books of essays. In addition to her impressive range in terms of genre, she has experimented boldly with form, using multiple narrators in historical fiction, for example, as well as intertextuality and hybridity when incorporating source...

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9. Time’s Horizon: Elizabeth Dodd (B. 1962)

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pp. 194-210

Elizabeth Dodd has emerged over the last two decades as a major voice among contemporary midwestern literary naturalists, publishing three volumes of essays as well as two collections of poems that form a cohesive body of work probing our relationship to place. Many of her essays describe journeys that represent personal pilgrimages to view archaeological sites in the Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and Pacific Northwest as well as the storied Paleolithic cave paintings in France. She finds the tug of the ancient on the imagination to be irresistible, reading each landscape in terms...

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10. Islands of Time: Paul Gruchow (1947–2004)

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pp. 211-233

Paul Gruchow’s contribution as a literary naturalist lies at the cusp of ecology and memory, nature and culture. While the influence of Henry David Thoreau is pervasive, Gruchow’s reverence toward the natural world and the sheer lyricism of his writing can be likened to John Muir’s. He was also inspired by twentieth-century essayists such as Loren Eiseley, Rachel Carson, and E.O. Wilson, whom he credits with having bridged the humanities and sciences by synthesizing diverse disciplines.1 Believing that the finest essays of this kind are inevitably personal and reflective, he most...

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Epilogue: Returning

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pp. 234-240

I first glimpsed for myself a level of natural abundance akin to what had mesmerized early explorers in the Americas— and ultimately lured wave after wave of European settlers— in August of 1982, my first summer of six years living in southeastern Alaska. Solstice had passed just a month before, the longest day of the year. This far north, even after a day’s work you could launch a kayak and still get in a good five hours of fishing in full daylight. In fact, at the height of summer, darkness never quite arrives in...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 241-244

As with any scholarly project of this scope, each chapter has developed gradually over years and has benefited greatly from the input of others, academic colleagues as well as family and friends, who have served as a cadre of trusted readers throughout the process. I would like to acknowledge here a profound debt to those who have participated in the journey. Their generous comments and suggestions on drafts as well as responses to conference papers have enhanced this work immeasurably. Finally, I wish to...

Bibliography

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pp. 245-260

About the Author

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pp. 261-262

Index

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pp. 263-276