Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest

Region, Heritage, and Environment in the Rural Northeast
Pavel Cenkl
Foreword Author(s): 
John Elder

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302 pages, 6 x 9 inches
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“How good to see sharp thinkers engaging the mysteries and possibilities of one of the world’s most interesting and hopeful corners, the mountains and woods of the northeast. This book will start many gears turning in your head!”—Bill McKibben, author, Wandering Home

Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest celebrates the beauty and dynamism of a long-settled area that also holds one of the major forests of the earth. It exemplifies a venturesome and inventive moment in the unfurling of environmental studies. And it articulates a more vividly integrated vision of education and conservation alike.”—from the foreword by John Elder

Nearly 30 million acres of the Northern Forest stretch across New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Within this broad area live roughly a million residents whose lives are intimately associated with the forest ecosystem and whose individual stories are closely linked to the region’s cultural and environmental history. The fourteen engaging essays in Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest effectively explore the relationships among place, work, and community in this complex landscape. Together they serve as a stimulating introduction to the interdisciplinary study of this unique region.

Each of the four sections views through a different lens the interconnections between place and people. The essayists in “Encounters” have their hiking boots on as they focus on personal encounters with flora and fauna of the region. The energizing accounts in “Teaching and Learning” question our assumptions about education and scholarship by proposing invigorating collaborations between teachers and students in ways determined by the land itself, not by the abstractions of pedagogy. With the freshness of Thoreau’s irreverence, the authors in “Rethinking Place” look at key figures in the forest’s literary and cultural development to help us think about the affiliations between place and citizenship. In “Nature as Commodity,” three essayists consider the ways that writers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries thought about nature as a product and, thus, how their conclusions bear on the contemporary retailing of place.

The writers in Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest reveal the rich affinities between a specific place and the literature, thought, and other cultural expressions it has nurtured. Their insightful and stimulating connections exemplify adventurous bioregional thinking that encompasses both natural and cultural realities while staying rooted in the particular landscape of some of the Northeast’s wildest forests and oldest settlements.

Table of contents: 

John Elder

Foreword vii

Acknowledgments xi

Pavel Cenkl

Reading Place in the Northern Forest 1


Timothy Stetter

Meeting Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) 17

Terenc e D. Mosher

Music of the Northern Forest: Boreal Birdsong

in Literature and on the Trail 28

Natalie Coe

Life as Beech: Survival in the New England Forest 49

Teaching and Learning

Kathleen Osgood Dana

Robert Frost in the Fields and Nils-Aslak ValkeapaÅNaÅN

at the Treeline: Ecological Knowledge and Academic

Learning at the Northern Forest Edge 61

Ernest H. Williams, Patrick D. Reynolds,

and Onn o Oerlemans

Interdisciplinary Teaching about the Adirondacks 77

Jill Mudgett

Youth, Refinement, and Environmental Knowledge

in the Nineteenth-Century Rural North 98

Catherine Owen Koning, Robert G. Goodby,

and John r. Harris

Place as a Catalyst for Engaged Learning at

Franklin Pierce University 133

Rethinking Place

Larry An derson

Benton MacKaye’s 1904 White Mountains Hike: Exploring a

Landscape of Logging, “Camp Ethics,” and Patriotism 153

Daniel S. Malachuk

William James at Chocorua: A Northern Forest Philosopher 171

Richard Paradis

A Traverse of the Presidential Range with the Scottish

Highlands on My Mind 187

Jim Warren

Living with the Woods: Disturbance Histories in

Thoreau and Burroughs 213

Nature as Commodity

Priscilla Paton

In Awe of the Body: Physical Contact, Indulgence Shopping,and Nature Writing 227

Loriann e DiSabato

Claiming Maine: Acquisition and Commodification in

Thoreau’s The Maine Woods 246

Matthew Bolinder

So Much Beauty Locked Up in It: Of Ecocriticism and

Axe-Murder 261

Contributors 277

Index 281