A Terrible Beauty
The Wilderness of American Literature

Jonah Raskin

Shortly before he published Walden, Henry David Thoreau called "The library a wilderness of books." He also noted that while Americans were "clearing the forest in our westward progress, we are accumulating a forest of books in our rear, as wild and unexplored as any of nature's primitive wildernesses." In this book, Raskin takes a long close look at the forest of books that poets, novelists and essayists mapped and explored before and after Thoreau.

In this first work of cultural criticism to look back at writing in the United States from the perspective of the contemporary environmental crisis, Raskin offers insights for students, teachers and lovers of literature as well as for backpackers and hikers who have trekked across untrammeled forests, deserts and mountains.

"Jonah Raskin reminds us that it is still possible to say something new and important about American literature. His journey from the early explorers to modern novelists is both a first-rate exploration of the wilderness theme and, given that theme's centrality to our literary traditions, a striking account of American writing itself."
Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University

"The contrasts you develop between men and women writers are startling. You remind us that the constructs of European-American men are not the whole of American culture, however central and universal these writers may like to think they are. I appreciated the fact that you follow writers who include indigenous people in their construction of 'wilderness.' And I liked that you mention African American writers."
Julie Allen, Professor Emerita, Sonoma State University

"Into the wild we go in A Terrible Beauty as Jonah Raskin explores American writers from Henry David Thoreau to F. Scott Fitzgerald, demonstrating the formative omnipresence of wilderness in American literature and thought. We need a cultural dimension to the environmentalist proposition of 'rewilding,' a rewilding of our minds and hearts, and here Raskin points the way, learnedly but unpretentiously. Take a walk on the wild side!"
Christopher Phelps, Associate Professor of American Studies, University of Nottingham

2014, 370 pages, 5" x 9", full-color cover, bibliography, index. Published by Regent Press.
ISBN 978-1-58790-278-9 trade paper




Preface: Ah, Wilderness

Chapter 1
Explorers & Colonists: Sebastian Cabot, Henry Hudson, Robert Juet & William Bradford

Chapter 2
Puritans: Roger Williams, Mary Rowlandson, Cotton Mather & William Faulkner

Chapter 3
Revolutionaries: Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, J. Hector Crevecoueur, Philip Freneau & Washington Irving

Chapter 4
Continentals: Meriwether Lewis, William Clark & Sacagawea

Chapter 5
Pioneers: James Fenimore Cooper's Wild Literary Ride

Chapter 6
Pale Faces & Redskins: Robert Byrd, Catharine Sedgewick & Lydia Maria Child

Chapter 7
Margaret Fuller & Henry David Thoreau

Chapter 8
Allegorical: Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville & John Muir

Chapter 9
Coquette: Emily Dickinson

Chapter 10
Satirical: Mark Twain

Chapter 11
Twentieth Century & Beyond: Jack London, Mary Austin, Willa Cather & F. Scott Fitzgerald




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