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The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America Paperback – 30 Sep 2009

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"Walls reclaims for the present a man whose personality and work had a formative influence on the cultural landscape of antebellum America and whose legacy may to good effect be used in addressing current affairs. I recommend The Passage to Cosmos as a fine piece of Humboldt scholarship, a heartfelt plea for environmental holism, and an enjoyable read." (Science)"

About the Author

Laura Dassow Walls is the William P. and Hazel B. White Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame and the author of several books, including, most recently, Emerson’s Life in Science: The Culture of Truth.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9ea8accc) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fc3e69c) out of 5 stars Humboldt today 4 Dec. 2009
By John A. King - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Walls had done it again, that is to examine mankind's relationship to nature through some of the greatest proponents of nature: Thoreau, Emerson, and now Humboldt. Although Humboldt was probably the least literary of the three, Walls presents him as the most mindful of the intimate interrelationships among science, all arts, politics, and human dignity. He was more scientific than Thoreau or Emerson and perhaps more objective in writing about the cosmos. While his writings are not readily available today, Walls has made his thoughts, feelings, and controversies with his contemporaries completely accessible in PASSAGE TO COSMOS. Her inspiration is contagious.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Thomas A. Potter - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Laura Dassow Walls captures the spirit of Humboldt in moving prose. She writes in a style that reflects Humboldt's own cosmic view of the universe as he travels the Western World. Her style is personal, warm, passionate, and exciting. You come away from each reading with a wonderful sense of place. She is so much involved in this study that at times I cannot separate her from the great explorer himself. In other words, her work is subjective, filled with admiration of one of the giants of the 19th century. I appreciate her fearless willingness to bring her own history into his, thus writing with the cosmic and unifying sense of connectedness that so often evades biography. She writes of Humboldt because she respects not only his unifying approach to nature but because his work has touched a deep part of her own sense of oneness with the creation. In these pages one can sense the evolving roots of the transcendental science of Thoreau.
Make no mistake about it, this is a very personal work, but the research and documentation is exhaustive. I applaud her for her energy and spirit of enthusiasm exhibited in this work. Humboldt once again comes alive through these pages.
Tom Potter, President, Thoreau Society
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ed04390) out of 5 stars Great Book if You're Into the History of Environmental Thought 27 Oct. 2010
By Spencer in Seattle - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent academic book; it's a detailed study of Humbolt via art and various forms of writing. The author has a lit background, but this is a bit more biographical and focused on art than it is "literature and science" work. The book has a rich agenda: locating environmental thought and history in empire as opposed to nation. I see this as an important book in environmental criticism.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fc3eac8) out of 5 stars An outstanding read 2 April 2011
By Douglas Zook - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Humboldtian thinking and appreciation is more needed now than ever. And, Walls' book is a excellent contribution. The writing is insightful, well-documented, comprehensive, and even riveting at times. This could have been a dry, sit-on-the-shelf exploration of this great individual's work and impacts, but in the author's expert hands it becomes an eye-opening essential read for anyone interested in fostering a healthier, saner planet.
HASH(0x9ed04f3c) out of 5 stars Incredible, enlightening read 5 Jun. 2013
By Villette - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book that anyone who is interested in either literature or science should read. It's helped me understand the contours of the contemporary world.
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