Tuesday, February 12, 2008

History and Wilderness

While reading the Cronon essay on Wilderness, and couple of points really jumped out at me in connection to the Lowenthal reading we had earlier in the week. Lowenthal highlighted the tendency of Americans to disengage the past with the sense of hope that lay in the present or for some, the future. He also mentioned the more recent tendency of American’s to dwell on nostalgic ideals of our nation’s history, in stark contrast to the “antihistorical bias” that “made Americans feel that their country's unique destiny demanded disengagement from the heritage of human history” (91) that characterized the earlier years of the nations life. Although there cannot be an exact date to mark the changing ideals, he did give light to the general time period. In Cronon’s essay, when discussing another evolving ideal-the concept of wilderness-he makes an interesting point in connection to the importance of historical preservation…

“Thus, the myth of the vanishing frontier lay in the seeds of wilderness preservation in the United States, for if wild land had been so crucial in the making of the nation, then surely one must save its last remnants as monuments to the American past-and as an insurance policy to protects its future. It is no accident that the movement to set aside national parks and wilderness areas began to gain real momentum at precisely the same time that laments about the passing frontier reached their peak. To protect wilderness was in a very real sense to protect the nation’s most sacred myth of origin” (76-77).

I just thought it was a really good example of how different aspects of a nation’s history can bring about completely different perspectives of how significant that history actually is. When reading Lowenthal my idea of history was mainly wars and rulers, but this passage gave me a couple new ideas.

1 comment:

Jim Tantillo said...

not to gush or anything, but that's a great comment. :-)

good post!