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Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century Paperback – August 24, 1976
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I took a challenge from a professor to read the work one Christmas break. I was severely impressed with the book after reading it. But craming the reading into such a short period of time was difficult, and I do not feel those long sessions of reading were the best way to get the most from the work. But I enjoy using the index to look up topics of interest. And I feel that I need to look again at the introductory essay.
Glacken has three ideas that he draws out of his look at the history of Western thought: the idea of a designed earth; the idea of environmental influences on culture; and the idea of humans as a geographic agent. It is a must have for all geographers.
I highly recommend that students of geography and human-nature interactions read this book once. That said, I have a number of reservations about its ultimate usefulness. Firstly, this book, while exhaustive, almost moves into the realm of being pedantic. It is trying to construct a monolithic view of history, and belabors some small texts for several pages, while moving too quickly over a diverse period at the end. Second, this book is a product of its time. It has a highly Orientalist view of history, and this can be seen by the order of the book, in which Glacken organizes the authors he looks at chronologically, instead of the order in which they came to have influence on Euro-American thought. Thirdly, Glacken presents the texts unproblematically, with little social contextualization. About 50% of the book looks at Judeo-Christian interpretations of 2 verses in the Christian Bible, without questioning the wider social movements that made these two fragments important, including the movements of his own time that suggest these two verses as the source of all environmental degradation. Finally, this is a book without a clear ending. By finishing his book with the end of the Eighteenth Century, Glacken manages to sidestep the proliferation of views that erupted shortly after this time.Read more ›