Publication date: 2003
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Surveying the Interior
Literary Cartographers and the Sense of Place
From the very beginning, American literature was closely intertwined with surveying. In Surveying the Interior
, Rick Van Noy explores the ways that four American literary cartographers—Henry David Thoreau, Clarence King, John Wesley Powell, and Wallace Stegner—concerned themselves with what it means to map or survey a place and what it means to write about it. In the process, he helps define the ways by which space enters the human psyche as definable place, as well as the ways by which physical landscape is transmuted—through the vagaries of human perception, representative processes, and emotion—into a sense of place as an intimate, personal manifestation of both physical and existential realities.
Cartography in America aimed to order or control the landscape, but it led at the same time to the creation of a rich interior landscape that remains a fundamental part of the American imagination and literary tradition.
“Rick Van Noy connects literature and cartography in ways that illuminate both the history of environmental writing in America and the particular authors on whom he focuses. This perceptive study is especially welcome at a time when G.I.S. becomes more central to environmental studies and when Native American authors like Leslie Silko ask us to view certain ‘stories’ as ‘maps’ in their own right.”
—John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home and The Frog Run
“A volume of genuine significance and originality, Rick Van Noy’s Surveying the Interior offers an invaluable historical perspective on the intersection of literary and scientific modes of thought about the environment. Clear and engaging, Van Noy’s discussion of the ‘literary cartography’ of Thoreau, King, Powell, and Stegner is impressive—an important contribution to the field of ecocrticism.”
—Steven Rosendale, editor of The Greening of Literary Scholarship