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Forests: The Shadow of Civilization Paperback – 1 Mar 1993


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Forests: The Shadow of Civilization + The Dominion of the Dead (Historical Studies of Urban America)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (1 Mar 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226318079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226318073
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.5 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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First Sentence
IT IS NOT ONLY IN THE MODERN IMAGINATION THAT FORests cast their shadow of primeval antiquity; from the beginning they appeared to our ancestors as archaic, as antecedent to the human world. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By paul42327 on 17 Jan 2006
Format: Paperback
Don't be put off by this being written by an academic. This is a major work - so far fairly unnoticed - and worth your time. I cannot praise it highly enough. The author has taught me to look at the world in a different way; to understand my place in things; to realise why we are where we are; and even to come to terms with my mortality.
Ranks alongside "The Soul of the White Ant" by Eugene Marais as a classic of its kind.
Buy it. Once read, you won't want to sell it on.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Feb 1999
Format: Paperback
My old Cambridge tutor said that the only works of modern literary criticism he'd sell his shirt for were *Seven Types of Ambiguity* and *The Wheel of Fire*. For a long time I agreed. Then I read *Forests*. It is quite simply the most profound, the most moving, the best-written, the most important work of literary criticism of the late twentieth century.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Feb 1999
Format: Paperback
My old Cambridge tutor said that the only works of modern literary criticism he'd sell his shirt for were *Seven Types of Ambiguity* and *The Wheel of Fire*. For a long time I agreed. Then I read *Forests*. It is quite simply the most profound, the most moving, the best-written, the most important work of literary criticism of the late twentieth century.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
An important work with appeal to several fields 6 Dec 2003
By Robert Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although this is clearly a work in literary criticism, it is one that will appeal to those working in other areas. For instance, those working on Environmental Ethics will find a great deal of very information about how forests have been conceived in a great deal of the literature of the greater European world throughout history. Intellectual historians with an interest in how Europeans have conceived nature as a whole will find a great deal to interest them in this book that deals with forests in particular. But the primary audience is students of literature.
The narrative of the book runs chronologically to the dawn of written history to Frank Lloyd Wright, though the vast majority of figures discusses are writers, and of those primarily writers of nonfictional literature. Harrison discusses an immense range of writers and works, from the EPIC OF GILGAMESH to Chaucer to Dante to Shakespeare to Descartes to Rousseau to Wordsworth to the Brothers Grimm to Thoreau. Although Harrison's prose style is not exhilarating, I never found the book to be less than interesting.
Whether someone will find this interesting will depend on whether they want to know more about the way that forests have been conceived in European history. At various periods of time they have been view as scared, as dark places of fear, as resources for human exploitation, or as ecosystems valuable in their own right. Harrison does not touch upon all these aspects, but I don't think anyone interested in Western attitudes towards nature could help but find this book to be of the greatest help.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
luminous 25 Feb 1999
By Prof. Jonathan Bate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
My old Cambridge tutor said that the only works of modern literary criticism he'd sell his shirt for were *Seven Types of Ambiguity* and *The Wheel of Fire*. For a long time I agreed. Then I read *Forests*. It is quite simply the most profound, the most moving, the best-written, the most important work of literary criticism of the late twentieth century.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
luminous 25 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
My old Cambridge tutor said that the only works of modern literary criticism he'd sell his shirt for were *Seven Types of Ambiguity* and *The Wheel of Fire*. For a long time I agreed. Then I read *Forests*. It is quite simply the most profound, the most moving, the best-written, the most important work of literary criticism of the late twentieth century.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
For that desert island 18 Jan 2008
By Linda McDougall - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When I left to live in the Mexican High Sierra eight years ago, I had room for only four books - ones I could not live without: "Forests" was one of them. Through my many years as a mythologist and therapist, I'd not found any work to equal this fascinating, spiritual exploration into the real and symbolic forest. A long time ago, a student in landscape architecture at the University of British Columbia gave me a copy, requesting my opinion of it. Her wise and sensitive professor had made it required reading for his graduate students, and how many would be astute enough to recognize its importance?
Anyone with a true yearning to enter into the dark forest of myth and history, so beautifully explored by Joseph Campbell, will love Harrison's extraordinary revelations from the mythic past to the historical present, and emerge from the woods knowing that it's all part of the same mystery.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Insightful, Pessimistic 22 Oct 2007
By Tidewater - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Harrison's work is pioneering in the sense that he delves into the human psyche as much as he does into the history of forests. By his definition, which is convincing, there are virtually no forests left in the world. For reasons the author explores, men for millennia have atacked forests and cleared them away. This destructive activity seems to have been universal, not wedded to a particular geography, culture or religion.

Harrison journeys through several epochs using the classical literature of the periods to illustrate his points. Frankly, his deeper medtitations that verge on philosophy and metaphysics were over my head. (One place he praises Heidegger for insights, in another he criticizes him. Nietszche ditto.) Nevertheless, the main thrust is clear: humans are at risk because they have denuded the world's landscape of the forests that up to now have provided the foundation for their culture, mores and myths.

What makes the book pessimistic, in my view, is that the behavior of humans over the millennia as illustrated by Harrison is overtly destructive and at the same time seemingly unreformable. Harrison makes a stab at optimism by, for example, praising the poetry of A. R. Ammons and the homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I admire them, too, but they have hardly taken the booboisie (H.L. Mencken's term) by storm. It's hard to know what comes next in human history given the looming desertification that is the current trend, but Harrison's work strongly intimates that the future is dicey for we humans.

A nice corollary read to Harrison's work is Leslie Marmon Silko's "Almanac of the Dead," written from a very deep Native American perspective.

There is a blurb on the back dust cover of my hardback edition by Bill McKibben, but McKibben's "End of Nature" is to Harrison's work as the Bowie Bay Sox are to the Boston Red Sox--not in the same league.
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