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 and diversity of ways in which humans have understood themselves and the natural world across different times and cultures. As a comparative cultural history of writing about the natural world, ENCOMPASSING NATURE should become the standard sourcebook for years to come.
Sources for Further Study
Los Angeles Times Book Review. November 8, 1998, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLIV, August 11, 1997, p. 33.
San Jose Mercury News. June 21, 1998, p. B8.
The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, June 14, 1998, p. 2.