The essays in this volume examine how the tensions between culture and nature is more apparent than real. Even in preindustrial societies, where the dominant technologies are agricultural, it would be impossible to envision a landscape unshaped by human contact. Drawing on evidence from Europe and America, and from the Renaissance to the present day, the contributors to this volume reconceive of the relationship between technology and landscape as a product of cultural interactions. Rather than view landscape only statically as space, they also see it as a process embedded in narrative, or time. Whether one is concerned with the English countryside, the Nazi Autobahn, a naturalist's description of the New World, or chemical pollution in contemporary Louisiana, the question of who gives a place its meaning is just as important as who constructs the physical landscape. Is the Grand Canyon a profitless locality, a sublime wonder, or a potential mining site? Is the smoke of an industrial city construed as pollution or as a heartening sign of prosperity? Is the Appalachian Trail a means to revivify the rural economy or a way to escape into a rugged wilderness experience? These are some of the questions addressed in this interdisciplinary collection of original essays.
David E. Nye is professor of American history and chair of the Center for American Studies at Odense University in Denmark. He is author of eight books, including American Technological Sublime and Electrifying America, which won the Dexter Prize and the Abel Woolman Award.