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Landscape And Memory 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679402558
ISBN-10: 0679402551
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an enormously rich, labyrinthine survey, Columbia University humanities professor Schama, author of prize-winning books on the French Revolution (Citizens) and Dutch culture (The Embarrassment of Riches), explores the role of landscape in myth, art and culture. Full of wondrous and forgotten lore, his mind-expanding study links the Egyptian myth of Osiris, sacrified king-god of the Nile, to pagan traditions of the sacred stream, Christian baptism and modern images of the fertile, fatal river. He follows woodlands-based myths of utopian primitivism from Tacitus through German Romanticism, the work of contemporary painter Anselm Kiefer and the militant nationalism that culminated in Hitler. Ranging freely over Western literature, history, art and mythology, Schama examines Mount Rushmore as an icon of democracy, unfenced suburban lawns as symbols of social solidarity, Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome, Sir Walter Raleigh's journey to Guiana, Thoreau's meditations at Walden Pond, Swiss climber Horace Benedict de Saussure's ascent of Mount Blanc in 1787. Arguing that the boundaries between the wild and the cultivated are more flexible than is commonly assumed, this rewarding synthesis maps an uncharted geography of the imagination. Illustrations. 40,000 first printing.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Schama presents a wide-ranging meditation on the role of nature in Western civilization from ancient times to the present. The previous books by Schama (humanities, Columbia Univ.) include The Embarassment of Riches (LJ 5/15/87) and Citizens (LJ 4/1/89). In the present work, he argues persuasively that Europeans and Americans have been shaped by nature as much as they themselves have shaped nature. Schama discusses the impact of sacred or mysterious rivers, forests, and mountains in forging the Western imagination. Individuals discussed include the expected (e.g., Henry David Thoreau) as well as some surprises (e.g., Louis XIV and Hitler). The fact that nature has had a huge impact on Western history is not a startling new revelation, but Schama is a marvelous writer and an impressive scholar. He brings together familiar and not-so-familiar stories to create a fresh reappraisal of more than 2000 years of history. Highly recommended.?T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 652 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (April 4, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679402551
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679402558
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 7.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on January 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Simon Schama's book, LANDSCAPE AND MEMORY is a work of philosopy, mythology, history, art history, and a personal reflection of his life as a Jew. He says he has written a history, and "like all histories, this is less a recipe for action than an invitation to reflection." LANDSCAPE is his most autobiographical book to date. It is not a detailed history of a particular place and time (like PATRIOTS AND LIBERATORS), but rather a synthetic work discussing nothing less than the meaning of life.
To support his thesis that aesthetic and religious expression and nature have always been and remain interconnected, Schama weaves together a variety of elements from many Western historical periods and places. Although on one one level his book could be viewed as a survey of Western art it is not. His premise is that our cultural legacy is the veneration of nature, that we do not inhabit a nature versus cultural world. Our culture is formed from our experience and our memory of our natural world. God is in the details and the impression of the Creator is impressed on the face of her creation.
LANDSCAPE has four main sections: Wood; Water; Rock; and Wood, Water, Rock. He begins with a backward journey to Eastern Europe, where his Jewish ancestors lived long ago. He searches for the family roots, and is reminded by a colleague, "Jews have legs, they don't have roots." Schama describes the great forest of Poland, oddly named Bialowieza--the realm of the Lithuanian Bison. Over the centuries, the forest has provided sustenance and sheltered many. During WWII, it became the hunting ground of the Nazis. His travels take him to Buchenwald the forest of beeches, once worshiped humans and now linked with the horrible deeds of men.
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Format: Paperback
In Landscape and Memory, Simon Schama embarks on an epic journey across countries, through mountains and forests, and over time to create a panoramic exploration of the impact landscape has made on culture and in turn how the culture has formed and manipulated the land. Painting, sculpture, printmaking, architecture, rural and urban planning are merely a few of the means by which society has interpreted the world around them, often to conform to its own needs and desires. Schama does not see this as negative, for it is the "cultural habits of humanity" that "have always made room for the sacredness of nature." Schama does not treat the landscape as isolated and individual expressions, but as part of a historical and transcontinental continuum. The spirituality and nationality imbued in the land and rivers transcend time and space to embody a powerfully universal mysticism. Schama's distinctive meandering writing style gives the reader the impression that he or she is in fact taking a journey through woodland trails or down winding rivers. He combines the narrative elements of storytelling with a historical accuracy and specificity in order to describe a vivid and imaginable past. The forests of Lithuania, the elaborite Fountain of the Four Rivers of Italian sculptor Bernini, the mystic landscape paintings of Casper David Friedrich, and Mount Rushmore are just a small sampling of the rich variety of subjects Schama discusses in his authoritative yet intuitive work. Schama begins and ends the book with the words of Henry David Thoreau, thus creating a cyclical feeling quite similar to the turning of the seasons or the movement of one river into another.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
THis is an odd and remarkable book, a tour of history that mixes art criticism, economic analysis, and even gastronomy. It moves between so many subjects - from a German artist parodying Hitler's siegheil to empty fields, Hasidim logging in the woods of Poland dressed in their customary suits, to the Baroque fountains in French parks - that it is impossible to summarise his message, except to say that we Westerners have a changing relationship with forest, rock, and water.
I was dazzled by Schama's erudition and mastery of language, as he moved from making connections between Egyptian mythology and the fountains of Rome, or the myth of Robin Hood and rustic Englsh eccentrics of the 19C. This is a book that enhances one's experience, particularly if you live in EUrope and every day walk by the things that he describes. For example, I read it while we were living on the edge of Fontainebleau forest, in France, and inside the back cover of the book, I found a map of the forest that included our village of 600! To my astonishment, I then went on to read that Fontainebleau was apparently the first forest to have marked paths for hikers who visit from industrial cities, a method pioneered by a somewhat loopy bonapartist who had retired to the area, and whom the local authorities watched with suspicion in mid 19C. For anyone who loves hiking or sitting outside, you will find sections like that that speak to you, that are illuminating in a quirky personal way.
However, while these passages are wonderful and fun, for me they did not add up to much of anything beyond anecdotes. I enjoyed the facts, as a kind of entertainment that passed by as I read on, but they failed to coalesce into any deeper insights.
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