The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology

Max Oclschlaeger, Author, Max Oelschlaeger, Author Yale University Press $35 (477p) ISBN 978-0-300-04851-3
It is the Kantian idea of wilderness--its teleological meaning--that occupies the author here. From the minds of five ``poetic thinkers and thinking poets,'' namely, Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Robinson Jeffers and Gary Snyder, Oelschlaeger, professor of philosophy at the University of North Texas, brings new dimension to such matters as the origin and uses of the natural world. Against a dubious reconstruction of the Paleolithic notion of a sacred, shared wilderness, the author deconstructs the modernists' concepts of wild nature as ``matter in motion.'' The scientific revolution in particular is shown to have widened the fissure in our cultural idea of wilderness, between the idea of nature as our ``magna mater''--an organic model of the cosmos--and modernist models in history, cosmology, philosophy, and even in the author's survey of today's ecology movement (from ``resourcism'' to eco-feminism). Oehlshlaeger is a cautious critic and reluctant prophet; nonetheless his proposed ``postmodern idea of wilderness'' swims against the currents of our intellectual history and invites criticism from members of many disciplines. But Joseph Campbell readers should be able to hear, underneath Oelschlaeger's academic style, the faint heartbeat of an older wilderness mythos in his thesis. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1991
Release date: 04/01/1991
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