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Bartram's Living Legacy: The Travels and the Nature of the South
Product Code: P415
Binding Information: Paperback
Availability: In stock.
More than two centuries have passed since the publication of William Bartram’s Travels in 1791. That his book remains in print would be notable enough, but Bartram’s work was visionary. It fostered the development of a truly American strain of natural history. His writings transcended scientific boundaries to deeply influence Coleridge, Wordsworth, and other Romantic poets. And his text continues to ignite the imaginations of Southerners who love nature. Bartram’s ability to marry science with poetry ensured Travels a worldwide audience for the last 200 years. William Bartram was a cultural historian, too, carefully recording the way in which the Indians used the land along with the changes wrought by European settlers. Being on the road with Bartram involves cliffhanger encounters with dreadful weather, charismatic predators, and even deadlier humans. And throughout the book, Bartram reveals a deep spiritual connection to nature as a manifestation of divine Creation. Bartram’s holism lays the foundation for major themes of modern nature writing as well as environmental philosophy. In this unique anthology, for the first time Travels is joined with essays acknowledging the debt Southern nature writers owe the man called the “South’s Thoreau.” We hope this book will introduce a new generation of environmentally minded Southerners to Bartram’s timeless work, not only standing on its own but also interpreted through passionate, personal essays by some of the region’s finest nature writers. Rather than wallowing in nostalgia for the long-gone world Bartram describes, this anthology provides us with a starting point for reconstructing and reclaiming the natural heritage of the South.
The ecosystems that once defined the southern landscape have disappeared, as though some cataclysmic geological event had simply obliterated them. We know of them chiefly through William Bartram's Travels published in 1791. It would be about two centuries before a group of southeastern writers/naturalists/activists began to survey the landscape that we are left with, and to think about the consequences of what has been lost, and the power, beauty, and richness of what remains. Dorinda Dallmeyer, the editor of this wonderfully conceived volume, has been at the center of that group. Her idea of combining the text of the Travels with reflections by contemporary southern writers is a brilliant one. Bartram remains an indispensable writer, whose work has been neglected for too long. Now at last he, his book, and the land he describes have their champions. Some of the essayists here focus on Bartram the man, some on Bartram the naturalist, some on Bartram the writer and artist. And some focus, as he himself had done, on the landscape and ecology of the South as it now is, and as it once was. Some of the essayists in this book I have known and admired for years; some are entirely new to me. They do not speak with one voice, or on behalf of any preconceived agenda. But their contributions, taken all together, indicate that the South now has its own distinctive tradition of environmental literature. Bartram, not Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, or John Burroughs, is its progenitor, and this book, I believe, will come to be seen as its cornerstone. —Franklin Burroughs