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Landscape and memory / Simon Schama.

By: Schama, Simon.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York, New York : Vintage Books, 1996Copyright date: ©1995Edition: First Vintage edition.Description: xi, 652 pages, 37 unnumbered pages of plates (some folded) : illustrations (some colour), maps ; 25 cm.Content type: text | still image | cartographic image Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780679735120 (paperback).Subject(s): Landscapes -- Social aspects | Landscapes -- History | Landscape assessment -- History | Human ecology -- HistoryDDC classification: 304.23 Summary: When we look at a landscape, do we see nature or culture? That question lies at the heart of this book. The author believes that every landscape, forest, river, or mountain, is a work of the mind, a repository of the memories and obsessions of the people who gaze upon it. In this work of history, naturalism, mythology, and art, he ranges over continents and centuries to reveal the psychic claims that human beings have made on nature. He tells of the Nazi cult of the primeval German forest; the play of Christian and pagan myth in Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers; and the duel between a monumental sculptor and a feminist gadfly on the slopes of Mount Rushmore.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

A Time Magazine Best Books of the Year. In Landscape and Memory, award-winning author Simon Schama ranges over continents and centuries to reveal the psychic claims that human beings have made on nature. He tells of the Nazi cult of the primeval German forest; the play of Christian and pagan myth in Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers; and the duel between a monumental sculptor and a feminist gadfly on the slopes of Mount Rushmore. The result is a triumphant work of history, naturalism, mythology, and art, as encyclopedic as The Golden Bough and as irresistibly readable as Schama's own Citizens .

"A work of great ambition and enormous intellectual scope...consistently provocative and revealing."-- New York Times


"Extraordinary...a summary cannot convey the riches of this book. It will absorb, instruct, and fascinate."-- New York Review of Books

Originally published: 1995.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

When we look at a landscape, do we see nature or culture? That question lies at the heart of this book. The author believes that every landscape, forest, river, or mountain, is a work of the mind, a repository of the memories and obsessions of the people who gaze upon it. In this work of history, naturalism, mythology, and art, he ranges over continents and centuries to reveal the psychic claims that human beings have made on nature. He tells of the Nazi cult of the primeval German forest; the play of Christian and pagan myth in Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers; and the duel between a monumental sculptor and a feminist gadfly on the slopes of Mount Rushmore.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

In an enormously rich, labyrinthine survey, Columbia University humanities professor Schama, author of prize-winning books on the French Revolution (Citizens) and Dutch culture (The Embarrassment of Riches), explores the role of landscape in myth, art and culture. Full of wondrous and forgotten lore, his mind-expanding study links the Egyptian myth of Osiris, sacrified king-god of the Nile, to pagan traditions of the sacred stream, Christian baptism and modern images of the fertile, fatal river. He follows woodlands-based myths of utopian primitivism from Tacitus through German Romanticism, the work of contemporary painter Anselm Kiefer and the militant nationalism that culminated in Hitler. Ranging freely over Western literature, history, art and mythology, Schama examines Mount Rushmore as an icon of democracy, unfenced suburban lawns as symbols of social solidarity, Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome, Sir Walter Raleigh's journey to Guiana, Thoreau's meditations at Walden Pond, Swiss climber Horace Benedict de Saussure's ascent of Mount Blanc in 1787. Arguing that the boundaries between the wild and the cultivated are more flexible than is commonly assumed, this rewarding synthesis maps an uncharted geography of the imagination. Illustrations. 40,000 first printing. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

CHOICE Review

Schama has produced an imaginative, provocative, and well-written study of how Western culture has imbued its natural surroundings with history and myth. Focusing on three particular parts of the natural environment, Schama convincingly illustrates how deeply they affect one's consciousness and how that, in turn, has determined what is landscape. Part 1 is an examination of wood--trees and forests--and is nicely framed with personal reminiscences. Schama shows how trees have served as symbolic reservoirs of nationalism, liberty, spirituality, and manifest destiny. Part 2 explores rivers, revealing them as sources of wisdom and representative of societal health. Part 3 shows mountains to be the "measure of man." Schama illustrates how mountains were slowly demystified, while at the same time attracting romantic associations. His interpretation of Mt. Rushmore as the ultimate symbol of triumph, possession, and imperialism is particularly interesting. Part 4 explores "Arcadia." The numerous black-and-white and color illustrations are carefully chosen and well placed to accompany the text. Informative bibliographic essay. Highly recommended for all levels. M. T. Scholz; University of Washington

Booklist Review

Cultures 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. --Donna Seaman

Kirkus Book Review

With this fascinating, encyclopedic survey of cultural landscapes, Schama (Dead Certainties, 1991, etc.) demonstrates once again just why he holds a charmed place in the literature of historical interpretation. The landscape is a work of the mind, argues Schama, another compartment in the cultural baggage we all lug about. The scenery is ``built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock,'' shaped by the same rich and complex traditions that frame other aspects of our cultural world. Without the proper context (or rather the proper contexts, as our way of seeing changes with the prevailing ideological fashion), we are unable to harvest from a look at the land all that it has to offer--all the allegorical, mythological, and metaphorical notes (not to mention a greater appreciation of just what we stand to lose by continuing to degrade the land); instead, we emerge with an impoverished sense of place. Schama proceeds by slicing the landscape into three elements--wood, water, and rock--and then digging deep and wide to excavate their manifold traditions, unveiling a luxurious wealth of landscape history. But Schama's project goes beyond the cataloging of marvelous incidentals and minutiae--from Druid grove to tabernacle, from Mt. Olympus to Mt. Rushmore, from sacred stream to the Yangtze. As each and every aspect of the cultural landscape comes bubbling up through the overburden of history, Schama knits it together with what has come before, creating on the page an environment so palpable you can almost crawl inside and marvel at an ancient oak, a swath of meadow, and do so through the eyes of a pagan, or a renegade, or a Victorian mountaineer. Wearing his erudition lightly, Schama effortlessly juggles the landslide of material and presents his tale with the captivating, inviting intimacy of a gifted storyteller. (color and b&w photos, not seen) (First printing of 40,000)