Young John Muir: An Environmental Biography

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9780299161545: Young John Muir: An Environmental Biography

As a founder of the Sierra Club and promoter of the national parks, as a passionate nature writer and as a principal figure of the environmental movement, John Muir stands as a powerful symbol of connection with the natural world. But how did Muir’s own relationship with nature begin? In this pioneering book, Steven J. Holmes offers a dramatically new interpretation of Muir’s formative years, one that reveals the agony as well as the elation of his earliest experiences of nature.
    From his childhood in Scotland and Wisconsin through his young adulthood in the Midwest and Canada, Muir struggled—often without success—to find a place for himself both in nature and in society. Far from granting comfort, the natural world confronted the young Muir with a full range of practical, emotional, and religious conflicts. Only with the help of his family, his religion, and the extraordinary power of nature itself could Muir in his late twenties find a welcoming vision of nature as home—a vision that would shape his lifelong environmental experience, most immediately in his transformative travels through the South and to the Yosemite Valley.
    More than a biography, The Young John Muir is a remarkable exploration of the human relationship with wilderness. Accessible and engaging, the book will appeal to anyone interested in the individual struggle to come to terms with the power of nature.

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About the Author:

Steven J. Holmes is lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University. He is currently at work on a book about environmental autobiography and plans to continue his study of John Muir.

From Publishers Weekly:

The life and writings of early environmentalist John Muir (1838-1914) taught Americans to appreciate the Yosemite Valley, the redwood, the glacier and the beauty of California. This scholarly and interpretive work takes on Muir's life from his birth in Scotland to his first years in California (up to 1872), along with his writings about those years. Holmes (who teaches history and literature at Harvard) sets out and glosses relevant facts, but his abiding interest is in theories, implications and readings. With attention and talent, Holmes primarily writes for other experts on Muir and for the emerging field of literary studies now dubbed ecocriticism. Though the wealth of knowledge and information here might attract some ambitious lay readers, the tone and aims seem purposefully academic. Holmes describes Muir's childhood in Scotland and Wisconsin through (among other lenses) Wordsworth's Prelude and the child development theories of Edith Cobb, Melanie Klein and D.W. Winnicott. He places Muir's stories of his own boyhood in "the wilderness/coming-of-age tradition" exemplified by Faulkner's "The Bear." He reads and rereads the emotional implications of Muir's correspondence with Emily Pelton and Jeanne Carr, and connects Muir's walks through Georgia's fauna and flora in 1867-1868 to particular readings of Paradise Lost. One appendix comprises new textual scholarship on Muir's important My First Summer in the Sierra; another offers more on Klein and Winnicott.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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