Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Reclaiming Nostalgia

Reclaiming Nostalgia: Longing for Nature in American Literature

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Reclaiming Nostalgia
    Book Description:

    Often thought of as the quintessential home or the Eden from which humanity has fallen, the natural world has long been a popular object of nostalgic narratives. InReclaiming Nostalgia,Jennifer Ladino assesses the ideological effects of this phenomenon by tracing its dominant forms in American literature and culture since the closing of the frontier in 1890. While referencing nostalgia for pastoral communities and for untamed and often violent frontiers, she also highlights the ways in which nostalgia for nature has served as a mechanism for social change, a model for ethical relationships, and a motivating force for social and environmental justice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3336-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    On September 19, 1870, a small group of tired, hungry men held a legendary conversation around a campfire at Madison Junction, the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon rivers in what is now Yellowstone National Park. The Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition, consisting of nine amateur explorers, three packers, two African American cooks, and five soldier-escorts, had set out on horseback from Helena, Montana, on August 17 “to investigate tales of scenic wonders in the area” (Sellars 8). Along the way they created maps and designated names for some of the most famous hot sulphur springs, boiling mud cauldrons, and explosive geysers in...

    (pp. 19-25)

    In 1916—the year the National Park Service was formed—Yosemite National Park held its first Indian Field Days. This inaugural event brought together nearly 150 Indians from the Yosemite region and approximately 1,500 park visitors for a daylong celebration of Indian culture. Rugs, jewelry, and baby cradles made by regional tribes were on display at the dramatic Yosemite Falls pavilion, and competitive contests—such as potato races and tug-of-wars—contributed to an event that was “part rodeo, part pageant, and part craft fair” (Cothran 195–98). NPS judges, some wearing “Indian” attire themselves, granted awards for the “Best Indian...

  7. 1 Longing for Wonderland: Zitkala-Ša’s Post-Frontier Nostalgia
    (pp. 26-50)

    Indians and nature have been versatile, often contradictory, foils for constructions of white American identity since European settlement. Indians have a long and distinctive history of being both quintessentially “American” and the very antithesis of national identity. InPlaying Indian, Philip J. Deloria describes how, for instance, Revolutionary War–era Indians were “noble and customary, and they existed inside an American society that was not British. But Indians were also savage, existing outside of a British society that included both colonists and officials” (26). The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a time of especially dynamic change, as constructions of...

    (pp. 51-57)

    “It is out of fashion these days to look backward rather than forward,” admits John Crowe Ransom at the start of the opening essay inI’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition(1). For Ransom and the other Southern agrarians, looking backward was a radical, if not a fashionable, way to counter a modernity they accused of breeding alienated individuals who had lost touch with community and place. These writers found an ideal “extended metaphor” in the American South, home of “a society, they felt, in which leisure, tradition, aesthetic and religious impulses had not been lost...

  9. 2 “Home Thoughts”: The Transnational Routes of Nostalgia in Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem
    (pp. 58-85)

    With the Western frontier now several-decades “closed,” the “Great War” in the not-so-distant past, and increasing mechanization, industrialization, and mass production creating anxiety in the present, many modern authors shared Willa Cather’s feeling that the world had “broke[n] in two” (Not Under Fortyv).¹ Regionalist literature like Cather’s reflected a widespread modernist nostalgia, but it was distinguished from other forms of modernism by its attempts to heal this sense of cleavage through rootedness in place and a “return” to an idealized, often pastoral, premodern society. Although most regionalists frowned upon pioneers for the same reasons Ransom and the Southern agrarians...

    (pp. 86-93)

    In his foreword to Ansel Adams’s 1944 photodocumentation of the internment camp at Manzanar,Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans, then Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes confidently proclaims that “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry” (7). To the Japanese interned in the camp, whose very detainment belied Ickes’s claim, this declaration would surely have struck a wrong note. Adams’s goal of rendering the internees “loyal” American citizens—a goal predicated on the fact that they were not being treated as such—also challenges Ickes’s assertion. Adams directly acknowledges ongoing...

  11. 3 Nostalgia’s Caring Capacity: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, and the “Last Call” for Nature
    (pp. 94-118)

    The years immediately following the Second World War, particularly the 1950s, are usually represented as a time of wealth and optimism, when the country looked forward instead of backward—an era to feel nostalgicfor, but hardly a nostalgic time itself. Americans like to recollect the decade as one of blanket prosperity characterized by increased wages, the growth of suburbia, better buying power for the United States in the wake of the war, and new imagined communities created on—and by—television.¹ The “fifties”² supposedly consisted of white, patriotic, middle-class, nuclear, suburban families, for whom things like poverty, racial tension,...

    (pp. 119-126)

    Iron Eyes Cody—a.k.a. the “Crying Indian”—is perhaps best known for his role in a public service announcement (PSA) that aired for the first time on Earth Day 1971 as part of the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign. The PSA begins with Cody—wearing braids, feathers, and “traditional” garb—paddling a canoe along what appears to be a pristine stream. Loud drum beats accent his steady, deliberate strokes. Suddenly, the camera zooms in on a scrap of newspaper adrift in the water and the tone darkens, as ominous music in a minor key casts doubt on the idyllic scene. The...

  13. 4 Remembering the Earth: N. Scott Momaday’s Nostalgic American Land Ethic
    (pp. 127-153)

    While political radicals of the 1960s and ’70s invoked symbolic Indians to protest the Vietnam War and fuel their “revolutionary identities,” the Red Power movement focused its political energies on issues pertinent to real Indians (Deloria 165). Termination and the Relocation Program of the 1950s and ’60s, which sought to end federal responsibility for tribes and encourage movement to cities, became the latest in a long line of federal legislation that may have been, within a certain assimilationist logic, well-intentioned but that produced negative effects for Native people. Termination meant the loss of tribal sovereignty and, for some tribes, the...

    (pp. 154-161)

    In October of 1999, a now-defunct coalition of nonprofit organizations called the Turning Point Project¹ placed a controversial full-page advertisement in theNew York Times. The ad features a hairless mouse with what looks like a human ear growing from its back, and the top third of the ad consists of a large-print headline: “Who plays God in the 21st century?” Two unsettling images—the mouse with the ear and a smaller photo of three identical-looking sheep—compete with the headline for viewers’ attention. Well-placed in the dead center of the page and looking like some kind of bizarre optical...

  15. 5 Don DeLillo’s Postmodern Homesickness: Nostalgia after the End of Nature
    (pp. 162-187)

    The cover of the 2006 edition of Bill McKibben’sThe End of Naturefeatures a yellow bird, chest skyward, eyes half closed, feet curled in mortal repose. Combining fear and nostalgia in a way reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s powerful fable, McKibben’s introduction to this edition laments that the planet “means something different than it used to. Something less than it used to” (xxiii). To dramatize our environmental loss, he tells this short parable: “Imagine that you have hiked to the edge of a pond in the forest and stand there admiring the sunset. If you should happen to look down...

    (pp. 188-194)

    Most Americans need no introduction toSurvivor. Since its premier in the United States in 2000, the “reality” show has been among television’s most watched programs.¹ For those who may be marooned on desert islands of their own, culturally speaking, here’s an overview. In each series, contestants (“Survivors”) are taken to an exotic destination, such as a remote island, separated into “tribes,” compelled to exist without most of the luxuries of modern life, and recorded for television audiences while they struggle to “negotiate the tensions between cooperation and competition” (Kellman).² Each episode features physical challenges that pit one tribe against...

  17. 6 Nostalgia and Nature at the Millennium: Ruth Ozeki’s Green Culture of Life
    (pp. 195-224)

    By the start of the 1990s, nature, nation, and identity had become radically unstable categories. End-of-nature rhetoric and other “discourses of terminal lament,” along with a shift away from “ecosystem equilibrium,” or “balance,” as an ecological paradigm, shook the foundations of the American environmental imagination (Frederick Buell 547, 573). Identity, too, had lost its roots, thanks in large part to the dominance of critical theory in the 1980s. Despite the gains of civil rights movements, intellectuals from both ends of the political spectrum—albeit for different reasons—now opposed identity essentialism.¹ Many scholars had come to embrace “the postmodernist view...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 225-232)

    In 2010, eighty-seven of Yellowstone National Park’s bison took up residence in a new summer home: Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch, a 12,000-acre span of western Montana terrain. In a controversial agreement with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Turner arranged to keep a portion of the historic bison herd’s newborn calves (approximately 188 animals, according to aNew York Timesarticle) in exchange for letting the herd stay on his property (Johnson). Most of the animals will return to the park after their five-year ranch “vacation,” but the fate of the calves is uncertain. They could be sold to another...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 233-246)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-268)
  21. Index
    (pp. 269-276)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-278)