by David Wyatt
Part of the Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture Series
In this book David Wyatt examines the mythology of California as it is reflected in the literature of the region. He argues that in the literature of the West, the energies, which, in other regions, had been concentrated in covenant theology or the rationalisation of Southern history, are displaced into an encounter with landscape. Tracing the early literature of California to Dana, Leonard, and Fremont, Wyatt studies their development of self-consciousness and awareness of the physical beauty in nature. He then examines in separate chapters the writings of Muir, King, and Mary Austin during a time of domestication and exploitation of the land when landscape became, of necessity, an idea or lost ideal. Of twentieth-century writers, the book focuses on Norris, Steinbeck, and Chandler, who seemed to struggle against the land, charting the advance of human hopes against the vast open spaces of the West. Professor Wyatt concludes with the writer's return to landscape as source and end in the poetry of Jeffers and Snyder.