Forests: The Shadow of Civilization

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Overview

As Western civilization cleared its space in the midst of the forests, it projected into the sylvan darkness its secret and innermost anxieties; in the forest's shadow we find enchantment, terror, and irony. 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. Harrison offers a richly detailed account ...
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Forests: The Shadow of Civilization

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Overview

As Western civilization cleared its space in the midst of the forests, it projected into the sylvan darkness its secret and innermost anxieties; in the forest's shadow we find enchantment, terror, and irony. 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. Harrison offers a richly detailed account of how the governing institutions of the West--from religion to law, family to city--established themselves in opposition to the forests, where the distinctions of civilization go astray. In sources ranging from Gilgamesh and the myths of ancient Greece and Rome to twentieth-century writers like Conrad, Sartre, and Beckett, Harrison finds the forest to be an enigma and paradox: a place of lawlessness, yet a haven for the unjustly treated; a place of profanity yet sacred ground; a world of darkness and obscurity, yet a stage for revelation. The word forest derives from the Latin for outside. Harrison comes to terms with the radical nature of this outsidedness and the way it grounds human life on the earth. What, he asks, does it mean to "be at home" while estranged from the physical world in which we dwell? 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.

In a wide-ranging exploration of the role of forests in Western thought, 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. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Pogue does not recount a merely empirical history about how civilization has encroached upon the forests, exploited them, cultivated them, managed them, or simply devastated them. He tells the more elusive story of the role forests have played in the cultural imagination of the West--a role filled with enchantment, terror, irony, and enigma. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226318073
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1993
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 287
  • Sales rank: 619,854
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 First the Forests 1
Vico's Giants 3
The Demon of Gilgamesh 13
The Virgin Goddess 19
Dionysos 30
The Sorrows of Rhea Silvia 46
From Mythic Origins to Deforestation 52
2 Shadows of Law 61
The Knight's Adventure 65
Forest Law 69
Outlaws 75
Dante's Line of Error 81
Shadows of Love 87
The Human Age 91
Macbeth's Conclusion 100
3 Enlightenment 107
The Ways of Method 108
What is Enlightenment? A Question for Foresters 114
Rousseau 125
Conrad's Brooding Gloom 133
Roquentin's Nightmare 144
Wastelands 148
4 Forests of Nostalgia 155
Forest and World in Wordsworth's Poem 156
The Brothers Grimm 164
Forests of Symbols 177
Waiting for Dionysos 186
5 Dwelling 197
The Elm Tree 202
London Versus Epping Forest 211
The Woods of Walden 220
Fallingwater 232
Andrea Zanzotto 238
Epilogue: The Ecology of Finitude 245
Notes and Bibliography 251
Works Cited 267
Index 277
Illustration Credits 288
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Customer Reviews

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    Posted March 28, 2013

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    Sighed"oh alright. " she padded off

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