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Thoreau's Country: Journey through a Transformed Landscape Revised Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674006683
ISBN-10: 0674006682
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Foster teaches ecology at Harvard University and is the director of the Harvard Forest. This book results from his 1977 trip to northern Vermont to build a cabin in the woods. He took along assorted reading material, including the journals of Henry David Thoreau, who had constructed his own cabin at Walden Pond well over a century before. As Foster, indicates in his preface, much of the New England landscape that Thoreau knew has since been naturally reclaimed by forest owing to social change and population shifts from country to city as well as changes in agriculture and industry. Foster quotes liberally from Thoreaus original journal entries as he comments on New England and its characteristics before and since Thoreaus day. Foster discusses the regions cultural landscape, woodlands, forests, and wildlife then and now. More than an analysis of Thoreau, this is a commentary on change and the role humans play in shaping the landscape. A thoughtful, very readable volume; recommended for both academic and public libraries.William H. Wiese, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Foster, an ecology instructor at Harvard University, charts the social and ecological histories of New England. Thoreau is Foster's inspiration, but by the time the philosopher-author of Walden moved to the Massachusetts woods and erected his small cabin, New England had already been transformed into a patchwork of agricultural fields and small woodlots. Indeed, farmers were seen as heroes for taming the land. But with the nineteenth century's industrial revolution, people deserted the countryside for new jobs in the cities. Over time, much of the land, including that around Foster's Vermont cabin, reforested itself. With the expanding forests, Foster finds a shift in human perception, too, one that encompasses the land's ecological importance. Foster uses many excerpts from Thoreau's journals, which reveal anew a man much in tune with the drastic changes humanity had already wreaked upon the earth. Brian McCombie --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Journey Through a Transformed Landscape
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Revised edition (December 21, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674006682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674006683
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on December 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Henry David Thoreau was intrigued by the natural world around Concord, Massachusetts, and a few other favorite New England sites. And whenever he was interested in something or wanted to mull over something, he jotted his findings and his musings in his journals. David Foster has analyzed the journal entries and has compared all the descriptions of Thoreau's New England landscape of the 19th century with our present-day environment. The result is a marvelous insight into the complex intertwinings of natural succession and human land use over several centuries.

At first glance, you might think this book is just another mere compilation of quotes from Thoreau's journals. Nothing could be further from the truth! The chapters address a variety of aspects of the landscape. Each chapter begins with Foster's original explanation of the topic, and he backs up his interpretations with Thoreau's dated journal entries. We are fortunate to have these daily observations and to be able to see the pond of "Walden" fame as a microcosm of the 19th-century New England landscape. For while Thoreau wrote that he "went to the woods," the place he went to was a far cry from what we would now typically call "wooded." Foster says, "It is ironic to recognize today, when a high value is placed on nature, wilderness, and old-growth landscape, that America's premier nature writer and propounder of conservation and wilderness values lived at a time when the New England landscape was arguably the most tamed and most dominated by human activity in its entire history." (p. 222)

And while the writings of Thoreau are generally approached through American literature classes, we've been remiss in not giving more credence to the *science* in his observations.
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Format: Hardcover
A must read for people interested in the environment and how to interpret their surroundings. Beautifully written, thoughtful and intelligent. One of the best books I've read.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an analysis of Thoreau's observations of the New England forest and its changes. Early in his own career, Foster noted that the landscape described by Thoreau was not the landscape he encountered in his own New England experiences. Although Thoreau made a few journeys to the Maine wilderness, most of his writings were set in the environs of Concord, Massachusetts, an area that was well settled and extensively used for agriculture. Even the woods where Thoreau roamed were not wild, but mainly woodlots around Concord. In this book, Foster collates Thoreau's descriptions and observations of a variety of topics concerning daily life, types of woodlands, forest fauna, and ecology and uses these to provide a window into the world as Thoreau saw it, a world whose appearance is very different today.

Foster points out that the migration from New England farmlands was already happening in Thoreau's time. He argues that this migration wasn't necessarily to richer farmlands in the Midwest, but rather to manufacturing jobs in cities, and that transportation improvements such as the new railroads were the main impetus for the migration. The abandonment of farmlands was followed by a transformation of the landscape, from the cleared fields and heavily used woodlots of Thoreau's youth to the second growth forests punctuated with housing developments found today. Hence, what Thoreau saw and described in his journals is quite different from the scenes one would find today in the same locations.

Since Thoreau covered so many different topics in his journals, from spirituality to bird sightings to politics and friendship, it can be difficult to focus on Thoreau's detailed observations of the environment when reading his journals.
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