Nearly 30 million acres of the Northern Forest stretch across New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Within this broad area live roughly a million residents whose lives are intimately associated with the forest ecosystem and whose individual stories are closely linked to the region’s cultural and environmental history. The fourteen engaging essays in Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest effectively explore the relationships among place, work, and community in this complex landscape. Together they serve as a stimulating introduction to the interdisciplinary study of this unique region.
Each of the four sections views through a different lens the interconnections between place and people. The essayists in “Encounters” have their hiking boots on as they focus on personal encounters with flora and fauna of the region. The energizing accounts in “Teaching and Learning” question our assumptions about education and scholarship by proposing invigorating collaborations between teachers and students in ways determined by the land itself, not by the abstractions of pedagogy. With the freshness of Thoreau’s irreverence, the authors in “Rethinking Place” look at key figures in the forest’s literary and cultural development to help us think about the affiliations between place and citizenship. In “Nature as Commodity,” three essayists consider the ways that writers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries thought about nature as a product and, thus, how their conclusions bear on the contemporary retailing of place.
The writers in Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest reveal the rich affinities between a specific place and the literature, thought, and other cultural expressions it has nurtured. Their insightful and stimulating connections exemplify adventurous bioregional thinking that encompasses both natural and cultural realities while staying rooted in the particular landscape of some of the Northeast’s wildest forests and oldest settlements.