Landscape and Memory

Overview

Opening a radically new and original path into history, Simon Schama explores the scenery of our Western culture, both real landscapes and landscapes of the mind that have given us our sense of homeland, the dark woods of our imagined origins. What unfolds is a series of compelling journeys through space and time: from the ancient woodland of Poland, a symbol over the centuries of national endurance, through the forest birthplace of the German psyche, to the Big Trees of Yosemite that gave a new nation its holy ...
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Overview

Opening a radically new and original path into history, Simon Schama explores the scenery of our Western culture, both real landscapes and landscapes of the mind that have given us our sense of homeland, the dark woods of our imagined origins. What unfolds is a series of compelling journeys through space and time: from the ancient woodland of Poland, a symbol over the centuries of national endurance, through the forest birthplace of the German psyche, to the Big Trees of Yosemite that gave a new nation its holy past. Through all of history, from pre-classical antiquity to the Third Reich and beyond, Schama uncovers the myths and memories that have stamped themselves on our most basic social instincts and institutions: territorial identity, the wild and domestic, mortality and immortality.

Where are the mythic places that haunt the Western mind: primeval forests, rivers of life, sacred mountains? In a series of journeys through space and time, Schama reveals a Western landscape encrusted with a rich deposit of memories and association, laid down over the centuries and bequeathed across the generations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Historian Schama explores the roles that have been played by landscapes in myth, art and culture. Nov.
Library Journal
Schama presents a wide-ranging meditation on the role of nature in Western civilization from ancient times to the present. The previous books by Schama humanities, Columbia Univ. include The Embarassment of Riches LJ 5/15/87 and Citizens LJ 4/1/89. In the present work, he argues persuasively that Europeans and Americans have been shaped by nature as much as they themselves have shaped nature. Schama discusses the impact of sacred or mysterious rivers, forests, and mountains in forging the Western imagination. Individuals discussed include the expected e.g., Henry David Thoreau as well as some surprises e.g., Louis XIV and Hitler. The fact that nature has had a huge impact on Western history is not a startling new revelation, but Schama is a marvelous writer and an impressive scholar. He brings together familiar and not-so-familiar stories to create a fresh reappraisal of more than 2000 years of history. Highly recommended.-T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y.
Donna Seaman
ultures are shaped by place. Forests inspire tree worship; rivers are gods. These cultural constructs are the source of "landscapes," the transformation of earth into metaphor. Schama, a fluidly creative scholar and adept author with far-ranging interests, has conducted what he describes as an "excavation" of Western culture's profound landscape tradition. What he reveals in this intricately structured, finely detailed, and wonderfully engaging analysis is the endurance of our veneration for nature, a perspective we still hold dear in spite of our environmental difficulties. Schama believes that a deeper understanding of our "core myths" may help us see our way through the present crisis. Schama focuses on three types of landscapes: forests, rivers, and mountains. As he describes each setting--from the tragedy-filled forests of Poland to California's astounding redwoods, to the heavily navigated Thames and Mississippi, the otherworldly Swiss Alps and even crass Mount Rushmore--Schama interprets the myths, literature, art, and polemics that have infused each place with metaphorical, spiritual, or political significance. This beautifully illustrated volume is an awesome achievement, a masterful, multifaceted survey of the many stories and images Western culture has evolved to express our complex relationship with place and the rest of life.
From the Publisher
"Marvelously rich and eloquent...Entertaining...Wonderfully learned and perceptive." —The New York Times Book Review

"[Schama's] sinewy prose is everywhere enlivened by an illuminating wit and fueled by a relentless and joyful curiosity...You get the impression he will venture anywhere, intellectually speaking, in pursuit of his historical prey...He's a scintillating guide." —The Globe and Mail

"Fascinating...A potpourri of biography, art history and much else, skillfully blended and handsomely illustrated...Insightful." —Maclean's

From Barnes & Noble
Art, literature, history, & more combine in what the author calls "a journey through spaces and places," from tales of the ancient Thames & Germany's Odenwald woodland to discussions of Mount Rushmore & Bernini's Fountain. Color & b&w photos & illus.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679402558
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/4/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 652
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Schama
Simon Schama is Old Dominion Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University.  He is the author of Citizens, Dead Certainties and An Embarrassment of Riches.  Simon Schama lives in New York with his wife and their two children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Pt. 1 Wood
Prologue: The Detour
Ch. 1 In the Realm of the Lithuanian Bison
Ch. 2 Der Holzweg: The Track Through the Woods
Ch. 3 The Liberties of the Greenwood
Ch. 4 The Verdant Cross
Pt. 2 Water
Ch. 5 Streams of Consciousness
Ch. 6 Bloodstreams
Pt. 3 Rock
Ch. 7 Dinocrates and the Shaman: Altitude, Beatitude, Magnitude
Ch. 8 Vertical Empires, Cerebral Chasms
Pt. 4 Wood, Water, Rock
Ch. 9 Arcadia Redesigned
Notes
A Bibliographic Guide
Acknowledgements
Index
Color plates follow pages 18, 82, 114, 210, 338, and 530
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