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Beyond Geography: The Western Spirit Against the Wilderness Paperback – October 1, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Frederick Turner is the author of six books, including a biography of John Muir, a personal investigation of the roots of New Orleans jazz, and a study of the making of the American literary landscape. His essays have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, American Heritage, and the Nation.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press; New edition edition (October 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813519098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813519098
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,499,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on February 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Here Frederick Turner advances a spiritual and religious thesis for the destruction of nature by Western civilization. What sets the West apart from almost everyone else in the world is a lack of connection with nature, which has lead to vast environmental destruction and the extermination of entire peoples. With great historical insight Turner traces this tendency way back to the very earliest cultures of the Near East such as Sumer and Mesopotamia, which were besieged by hostile nomads who resisted their attempts at the settled life. This influence continued into the Roman Empire which was constantly on the verge of collapse from barbarians at the gates, and Western culture developed an innate fear of unstructured and unknown nature. Meanwhile, as Christianity became the world's most bureaucratic religion, God was removed from the world and confined to the church, and stifling dogma prevented followers from attaining new revelations and awareness. In turn the outside natural world became the realm of Satan and had to be conquered and controlled. Turner extends these dire trends into the eras of exploration and expansion into the new world, with the stipulation that the inherent Western disconnection from nature led that culture to destroy it out of hatred and repressed desires.
This is a very strong thesis and Turner's research and insights are sound, especially for the time he wrote the book (1980), though he does tend to do a lot of stretching. An example is the implication that Westerners were so likely to slaughter other peoples because Christianity did not allow ritual sacrifices. Another problem is the inconsistent writing in this book, as Turner's distinct history and anthropology often drift into sentimentality and repetitive complaining about the West's evil deeds.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 29, 2014
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This is by far one of the best books I have ever read. Let me say that again...this is by far one of the best books I have ever read. In the preface Mr. Turner remarks how when he gave a reading of his work at Amherst, a woman had asked him whether he was aware that he was offering poetry as history. Ultimately he would concur. He admits that his central problem was: "how to write on a subject whose scope was far beyond my competence". Indeed, the conquest of North America by Europeans was and is a rich and complex process, of which numerous volumes have been written. However, Mr. Turner manages to distill the essence of that process by stating "...it is the story of a civilization that had substituted history for myth as way of understanding life." Throughout the book he manages to illustrate that substitutive process whereby European civilization had systematically extinguished not only the peoples of a continent but also a way of comprehending the world and humanity's place in it. Also, and importantly, he succeeds in not over-sentimentalizing Native American culture. Instead of painting a portrait of the noble savage leading an Edenic existence, he chooses to show how brutal Native American life could be, especially in response to European infringements. We read of cannibalism, seasonal starvation, Spanish heads on stakes, etc. This is not just another book about the tragedy of how our nation was settled, it is more a critique of the Western mind and the psychopathology of its historical imperative, an imperative which continues to carry us, now as a species, toward an abyss from which we may never extract ourselves. And finally, Mr. Turner is such an eloquent and effective writer, that one is captivated by nearly each sentence.Read more ›
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