Encompassing Nature (Magill Book Reviews)
Nature writing is a much older, richer, and more diverse genre than is generally assumed. Every ancient culture reflects a distinct vision of the natural world in its literature, even though nature itself may not be the primary focus of the text. In ENCOMPASSING NATURE: A SOURCEBOOK, scholar and classicist Robert Torrance has assembled an encyclopedic anthology and reference work of world writing about nature, from the ancient world through the end of the eighteenth century. Many of his selections include original translations of ancient texts, such as Greek drama, not usually thought of as nature writing.
Arranged chronologically, with copious notes and careful scholarship, Torrance’s selections include creation myths, cosmological songs, hymns, and sacred texts from Sumeria, India, China, Japan, ancient Israel, Greece, Rome, and the medieval world. One of the chief pleasures of ENCOMPASSING NATURE is discovering unknown treasures of nature writing in nonwestern cultures, especially in the orient. There are selections from the Hymns of the VEDAS, the teachings of Jainism, the BHAGAVAD GITA, Sanskrit court poetry, the TAO TE CHING, and much Chinese and Japanese poetry. Torrance also includes a collection of children’s stories about nature, excerpts from tribal rituals and myths, as well as scientific treatises, philosophy, and theology.
As the most comprehensive anthology of nature and culture, ENCOMPASSING NATURE demonstrates the wealth...
(The entire section is 292 words.)
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Encompassing Nature (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Most anthologies of natural history writing begin with the Romantic Period, as if nothing of consequence was thought or written about the natural world before then. Recent scholarship in environmental history, however, has called that assumption into question. Classicist and scholar Robert M. Torrance has assembled the first comprehensive anthology of natural history writing, ranging from the works of the ancient world through those of Enlightenment Europe. The richness and diversity of Torrance’s selections—many in original translations—should demonstrate that contemporary culture’s alienation from nature is not shared by all the cultures of antiquity but is a consequence of modern technology and of the particular cultural evolution of the West.
As Torrance writes in his preface, Encompassing Nature had its genesis fifteen years ago as an anthology of readings for a course at the University of California at Davis entitled “Man and the Natural World.” Torrance went on to help found the “Nature and Culture” program at U.C.-Davis and to write The Spiritual Quest (1994). Afterward, he returned to his work of compiling a “wide-ranging sourcebook of materials” about nature from the Western and non-Western worlds. Torrance’s selections include poetry and prose of every imaginable variety: creation myths, cosmologies, tribal myths, children’s stories, sacred scriptures, philosophical and scientific treatises....
(The entire section is 1950 words.)