Dark Eden: The Swamp in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

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Overview

An important though little understood aspect of the response to nature of nineteenth-century Americans is the widespread interest in the scenery of swamps, jungles and other waste lands. Dark Eden focuses on this developing interest in order to redefine cultural values during a transformative period of American history. Professor Miller shows how, for many Americans in the period around the Civil War, nature came to be regarded less as a source of high moral insight and more as a sanctuary from an ever more urbanized and technological environment. In the swamps and jungles of the South a whole range of writers found a set of strange and exotic images by which to explore the changing social realities of the times and the deep-seated personal pressures that accompanied them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An important milestone in American cultural, geographical and visual history, Dark Eden meticulously analyzes not only an evolving scientific understanding of swamps, but the use of swamps as symbols of female nature and of social crises, especially slavery, in the work of Stowe, Simms, Church, Heade, Strother, Tuckerman, Lanier, Hearn and others....Miller's book makes clear the extraordinary links between American wilderness and national, not regional, cultural bias, and thrusts deeply into twentieth-century attitudes....Dark Eden is a breathtakingly incisive book of extremely wide importance." American Studies

"His study has much to offer. It gives evidence of enormous archival work in a little-known documents, and it makes the results of that research available to a wide audience of culture critics, art historians, and scholars of American literature. Its erudition is undeniable. Dark Eden is likely to prove stimulating and to evoke scholarly discussion for a long time to come." American Literature

"...a wide-ranging, generously illustrated cataloguing of the metaphor of the swamp (and marsh and jungle) in American painting, writing and folklore. Miller's attention both to the physical shapes of particular landscapes and to what artists project on to a landscape makes the book a useful extension of work in a Canadian context by Dick Harrison, Robert Thacker and Gaile MacGregor." Canadian Literature

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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Acknowledgements; Introduction; Part I. The Matrix of Transformation: 1. To the lake of the dismal swamp: Porte Crayon's inward journey; 2. The elusive Eden: the mid-Victorian response to the swamp; 3. Mid-Victorian cultural values and the amoral landscape: the swamp image in the work of William Gilmore Simms and Harriet Beecher Stowe; Part II. The Phenomenology of Disintegration: 4. Frederic Church in the tropics; 5. The penetration of the jungle; 6. American nature writing in the mid-Victorian period: from pilgrimage to quest; 7. A loss of vision: the cultural inheritance; 8. A loss of vision: the challenge of the image; 9. Infection and imagination: the swamp and the atmospheric analogy; Part III. The Circuit of Death and Regeneration: 10. Immersion and regeneration: Emerson and Thoreau; 8. The identification with desert places: Martin Johnson Heade and Frederick Goddard Tuckerman; 12. Religion, science, and nature: Sidney Lanier and Lafcadio Hearn; Conclusion: Katherine Anne Porter's Jungle and the Modernist idiom; Appendix; Notes; Selected Bibliography; Index.

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