Surveying the Interior: Literary Cartographers and the Sense of Place
In Surveying the Interior: Literary Cartographers and the Sense of Place (2003), I bring a literary and critical perspective to texts such as those by John Wesley Powell and Clarence King that had received little attention from literary critics, in order to see them as part of a continuum of writing about the land that leads to such writers as Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, and Barry Lopez. While this book follows on the intersections of place, mapping and writing, mine was the first to examine writing by actual surveyors and mappers, who were writers only after they were scientists, but to look at them with the same glasses I used for Henry David Thoreau. Like other ecocritics, I show that maps do not tell the full story of a place, but I have the mappers themselves tell it.
A reviewer for American Literature said the book’s “pleasant and well-informed prose makes [the first chapter] a likely candidate for courses in environmental literature.” “Surveying the Interior,” the reviewer writes, “joins a valuable cohort in environmental literature,” suggests the “range of recent ecocriticism,” and can “help scholars and students map their own spaces-places in a burgeoning body of academic discourse.” Another reviewer for Western American Literature said the book “helps us deepen our sense of what constitutes a western writer and demonstrates just how firmly the West has resisted—and continues to resist—definitive understanding.” And a reviewer for Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment said that “the importance of Surveying the Interior lies in its interdisciplinary nature: Van Noy incorporates literary theory, semiotics, social constructionism, and environmental awareness in this study of how we view, interpret, and engage the physical landscape.”
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Praise for Surveying the Interior
Rick Van Noy connects literature and cartography in ways that illuminate both the history of environmental writing in America and the particular authors on whom he focuses. This perceptive study is especially welcome at a time GIS becomes more central to environmental studies and when Native American authors like Leslie Silko ask us to view certain 'stories' as 'maps' in their own right.
-John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home and Frog Run
A volume of genuine significance and originality, Rick Van Noy's Surveying the Interior offers an invaluable historical perspective on the intersection of literary and scientific modes of thought about the environment. Clear and engaging, Van Noy's discussion of the 'literary cartography' of Thoreau, King, Powell, and Stegner is impressive - an important contribution to the field of ecocriticism.
-Stephen Rosendale, editor of The Greening of Literary Scholarship
The interior Rick Van Noy surveys is a psychic interior, a land where space gives birth to place, where cartographic analysis and poetic sensibility coexist in creative tension. Read this fine book to learn how Thoreau, King, Powell, and Stegner struggled to fathom the complexity of the continent we call home, a process we continue to the present.
-William deBuys, author of Salt Dreams and Seeing Things Whole: the Essential John Wesley Powell
Surveying the Interior takes on an extremely important topic - how people come to see landscapes as places, how they become attached to places and feel part of them. Rick Van Noy sheds new light onto ideas about both mapping and writing about place.
-Karla Armbruster, coeditor of Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism