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Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama

Landscape and Memory (original 1995; edition 1996)

by Simon Schama

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1,10667,485 (4)40
Title:Landscape and Memory
Authors:Simon Schama
Info:Fontana Press (1996), Paperback, 672 pages
Collections:Your library

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Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama (1995)


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I find this a hard book to finish. It is one of those books it seems difficult to get into although the material is interesting and the thought good. ( )
  JayLivernois | May 13, 2010 |
This book is a fascinating treatise on the role nature (specifically wood, water, and rock) has played in Western culture. Art and history professor at Columbia University, Schama considered this the one book he needed to write. He expertly touches on so many examples of our environment's influence on our collective memory that the book is difficult to describe- everything from Hitler's obsession with the forests of Europe and the battles fought to get Susan B. Anthony on Mount Rushmore, to Western lust for Egyptian obelisks and dance parties held on the massive stumps of California Sequoias in the mid-nineteenth century. This work is also, with its classical layout and type font and its many excellent illustrations, one of the most beautifully designed books I've ever seen. Highly recommended. ( )
6 vote ukforever | Mar 6, 2010 |
A rich and satisfying look into the European heritage. Beautifully written, lyrical prose that is a joy to read. ( )
  JudyL | Feb 28, 2010 |
fascinating but pretentious ( )
  experimentalis | Jan 1, 2008 |
Schama presents a wide-ranging meditation on the role of nature in Western civilization from ancient times to the present. 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 synthesis maps an uncharted geography of the imagination.

Schama argues persuasively that Europeans and Americans have been shaped by nature as much as they themselves have shaped nature. He 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.
5 vote antimuzak | Oct 15, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
In various cultures, both classic and contemporary, the author studies myths and how they relate to landscapes. Repeatedly, the subject of an idyllic, pastoral place, an Arcadia, arises. In the last chapter, he focuses briefly on Central Park, praising its designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, for his vision of a heroic urban Arcadia. For Mr. Schama, Central Park seems to encapsulate the double-sided nature of the Arcadian concept. The dreamlike version is, he said, "a place of effortless bucolic sweetness, where you can lie on your back and smell the grass while there's a faint noise of people hitting balls with bats." The nightmare version is "a slightly scary, sinister, dense place of sex and death."
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, MEL GUSSOW (Jul 27, 1995)
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It is in vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves.  There is none such.  It is the bog in our brains and bowels, the primitive vigor of Nature in us, that inspires that dream.  I shall never find in the wilds of Labrador any greater wildness than in some recess of Concord, i.e., than I import into it.
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, August 30, 1856
For Chloë and Gabriel
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It was only when I got to secondary school that I realized that I wasn't supposed to like Rudyard Kipling.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679735127, Paperback)

One of Time Magazine's Best Books of the Year

In Landscape and Memory 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.

"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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:27 -0400)

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