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Dark Eden The Swamp in Nineteenth-Century American Culture by David M. Miller

Dark Eden The Swamp in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

Part of the Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture Series


Dark Eden The Swamp in Nineteenth-Century American Culture by David M. Miller

An important though little understood aspect of the response of nineteenth-century Americans to nature is the widespread interest in the scenery of swamps, jungles, and other wastelands. Dark Eden focuses on this developing interest in order to redefine cultural values during a transformative period of American history. Professor Miller shows how for many Americans in the period around the Civil War nature came to be regarded less as a source of high moral insight and more as a sanctuary from an ever more urbanised and technological environment. In the swamps and jungles of the South a whole range of writers and artists found a set of strange and exotic images by which to explore changing social realities of the times and the deep-seated personal pressures that accompanied them.


An important milestone in American cultural, geographical and visual history, Dark Eden meticulously analyzes not only an evolving scientific understanding of swamps, but the use of swamps as symbols of female nature and of social crises, especially slavery, in the work of Stowe, Simms, Church, Heade, Strother, Tuckerman, Lanier, Hearn and others....Miller's book makes clear the extraordinary links between American wilderness and national, not regional, cultural bias, and thrusts deeply into twentieth-century attitudes....Dark Eden is a breathtakingly incisive book of extremely wide importance.

American Studies His study has much to offer. It gives evidence of enormous archival work in a little-known documents, and it makes the results of that research available to a wide audience of culture critics, art historians, and scholars of American literature. Its erudition is undeniable. Dark Eden is likely to prove stimulating and to evoke scholarly discussion for a long time to come.

American Literature ...a wide-ranging, generously illustrated cataloguing of the metaphor of the swamp (and marsh and jungle) in American painting, writing and folklore. Miller's attention both to the physical shapes of particular landscapes and to what artists project on to a landscape makes the book a useful extension of work in a Canadian context by Dick Harrison, Robert Thacker and Gaile MacGregor.

Canadian Literature

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Book Info

Publication date

26th August 2010


David M. Miller

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Cambridge University Press


350 pages


Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900



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