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The Great Chain of Life

Overview

Originally published in 1956, The Great Chain of Life brings a humanist’s keen eye and ear to one of the great questions of the ages: “What am I?” Originally a scholar of literature and theater, toward the end of his career Joseph Wood Krutch turned to the study of the natural world. Bringing his keen intellect to bear on the places around him, Krutch crafted some of the most memorable and important works of nature writing extant.

Whether anticipating the arguments of biologists...

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The Great Chain of Life

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Overview

Originally published in 1956, The Great Chain of Life brings a humanist’s keen eye and ear to one of the great questions of the ages: “What am I?” Originally a scholar of literature and theater, toward the end of his career Joseph Wood Krutch turned to the study of the natural world. Bringing his keen intellect to bear on the places around him, Krutch crafted some of the most memorable and important works of nature writing extant.

Whether anticipating the arguments of biologists who now ascribe high levels of cognition to the so-called lower animals, recognizing the importance of nature for a well-lived life, or seeing nature as an elaborately interconnected, interdependent network, Krutch’s seminal work contains lessons just as resonant today as they were when the book was first written.

Lavishly illustrated with thirteen beautiful woodcuts by Paul Landacre, an all-but-lost yet important Los Angeles artist whom Rockwell Kent called “the best American wood engraver working,” The Great Chain of Life will be cherished by new generations of readers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Krutch begins with protozoa and ends with the human—and the sense of a cardinal outside his window, finding in the latter the suggestion that perhaps joy, not the struggle for survival alone, is the essence of life, both its origin and its quest. . . . In his unwavering insistence, to the very end of his life, on the primacy of freedom, purpose, will, play and joy, and in the kinship of the human with all forms of life, he defended those values which form, I believe, the meaning of mankind's history as well as that aspiration toward civilization which is history's only élan vital.”—Edward Abbey

“An endearing voice on the subject of natural history and environmental conservation. Joseph Wood Krutch's firsthand observations of nature, mixed with insightful musings based on what man knew of the world by the 1950s, make for fascinating and enlightening reading.”—James Prosek, author, Trout: An Illustrated History and The Day My Mother Left

“A wise and well-informed humanist has taken the time to look lovingly and wonderingly at the living world around him and to study the ways in which scientists have tried to analyze the world. . . . The best introduction to natural history that has yet been written.”—Marston Bates, New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587298202
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2009
  • Series: Sightline Books Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 244
  • Sales rank: 1,427,458
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Wood Krutch (1893–1970) was the Brander Matthews Chair of Dramatic Literature at Columbia University for two decades and served as the Nation’s drama critic for nearly thirty years. A Burroughs Medal laureate, Krutch published more than a dozen books. Paul Landacre was a Los Angeles artist, a member of the National Academy of Design, and teacher at the University of Southern California, the Otis Art Institute, and the Kahl Institute.

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