AS EVE SAID TO THE SERPENT: On Landscape, Gender and Art

Rebecca Solnit, Author . Univ. of Georgia $34.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8203-2215-5

Invoking Hannah Arendt's observation, "Metaphors are the means by which the oneness of the world is poetically brought about," Solnit launches into a mélange of cultural and political criticism in these 19 essays (many previously published). But Solnit doesn't tarry long on easy targets, diving instead into political thickets, guided by the preoccupation with environmentalism and social justice that has informed her previous books (the highly praised Wanderlust: A History of Walking and The Hollow City were both published within the last year). Here, she addresses subjects like the myth of Eden; the politics and aesthetics of nature photography and calendars; interconnections between the WWII-era nuclear physicists' frequent walks and the hydrogen bomb; the metaphoric significance of natural history museums; and the meaning, for women, of the "deadly" Medusa myth. While her frame of reference encompasses political, academic and historical territories, Solnit's foremost theme prevails: the tensions between human quests for "civilization" and for nourishment in nature. Neatly balancing reportage, critical opinion and literary metaphor, Solnit—standing clear-eyed on the shoulders of Walter Benjamin, Kristeva, Rachel Carson and many others—attempts a bold, critical synthesis that, if occasionally unequal to its lofty goals, always provokes and challenges. Solnit's important contribution to contemporary feminist and environmental literature, as well as social and art criticism, is equally crucial for ushering "real-world" environmental politics fully and thoughtfully into the ivory tower. Photos. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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