Kent Ryden does not deny that the natural landscape of New England is shaped by many centuries of human manipulation, but he also takes the view that nature is everywhere, close to home as well as in more remote wilderness, in the city and in the country- side. In Landscape with Figures he dissolves the border between culture and nature to merge ideas about nature, experiences in nature, and material alterations of nature. Ryden takes his readers from the printed page directly to the field and back again. He often bypasses books and goes to the trees from which they are made and the landscapes they evoke, than returns with a renewed appreciation for just what an interdisciplinary, historically informed approach can bring to our understanding of the natural world. By exploring McPhee's The Pine Barrens and Ehrlich's The Solace of Open Spaces, the coastal fiction of New England, surveying and Thoreau's The Maine Woods, Maine's abandoned Cumberland and Oxford Canal, and the natural bases for New England's historical identity, Ryden demonstrates again and again that nature and history are kaleidoscopically linked.
Kent Ryden is an associate professor in the American and New England Studies Program at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of Mapping the Invisible Landscape: Folklore, Writing, and the Sense of Place (Iowa, 1993).