Books & Essays
Bartram's Living Legacy: The Travels and the Nature of the South
Mercer University Press 2010
Thomas Hallock's essay is entitled "Gardening with Bartram."
Bartram?s Living Legacy: the Travels and the Nature of the South reprints Bartram?s classic work alongside essays acknowledging the debt southern nature writers owe the man called the ?South?s Thoreau.? The book was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award.
The anthology includes contributions from sixteen of the South?s finest nature writers: Bill Belleville, Kathryn Braund, Dixon Bynum, Christopher Camuto, Thomas Rain Crowe, Dorinda Dallmeyer, Doug Davis, Jan DeBlieu, Whit Gibbons, Thomas Hallock, John Lane, Drew Lanham, Roger Pinckney, Janisse Ray, Matt Smith, and Gerald Thurmond, strikingly illustrated with Bartram-inspired landscape paintings by Philip Juras.
Book Review #1:
"The ecosystems that once defined the southern landscape have disappeared, as though some cataclysmic geological event had simply obliterated them. We know of them chiefly through William Bartram's Travels published in 1791. It would be about two centuries before a group of southeastern writers/naturalists/activists began to survey the landscape that we are left with, and to think about the consequences of what has been lost, and the power, beauty, and richness of what remains. Dorinda Dallmeyer, the editor of this wonderfully conceived volume, has been at the center of that group. Her idea of combining the text of the Travels with reflections by contemporary southern writers is a brilliant one. Bartram remains an indispensable writer, whose work has been neglected for too long. Now at last he, his book, and the land he describes have their champions. Some of the essayists here focus on Bartram the man, some on Bartram the naturalist, some on Bartram the writer and artist. And some focus, as he himself had done, on the landscape and ecology of the South as it now is, and as it once was.
Some of the essayists in this book I have known and admired for years; some are entirely new to me. They do not speak with one voice, or on behalf of any preconceived agenda. But their contributions, taken all together, indicate that the South now has its own distinctive tradition of environmental literature. Bartram, not Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, or John Burroughs, is its progenitor, and this book, I believe, will come to be seen as its cornerstone."
UnspOILed: Wrtiers Speak for Florida's Coast
Red Hill Writers Project 2010
Hallock's essay is entitled "Way of All Flesh."
Book Review #1:
Literary advocates for the continued preservation of Florida?s coasts unite in Unspoiled, Writers Speak for Florida?s Coast. The collection of moving essays, short stories and poems by 38 writers includes a wealth of information for anyone interested in the splendor of the gulf and its ecosystem. It is also a treasure trove of bold statements that cast a suspicious eye on Big Oil and Big Development.
The tales tell the trickle-down effect that bad environmental decisions tend to have on land and sea dwellers alike. The essays also accurately portray the inimitable splendor that is Florida?s gulf coast and the imminent threats to its longevity in the form of proposed offshore drilling and avaricious developers. With financial support from the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education at Florida Gulf Coast University, the project was initiated in Fall 2009 in response to discussion of lifting the ban against drilling off Florida's coast. It was published after the Deepwater Horizon spill, when the alarms it raises have become all the more urgent.
From fisherman to professors to reporters and students, every author in Unspoiled has a story to tell. They range from the personal, like Lola Haskins' poem, ?The View From Cedar Key,? where she captures her feelings about the possibility of oil drilling off Florida?s gulf coast, to Diane Roberts' ?Selling Florida,? an essay in which she delves into the political side of the same issue.
Roberts, a professor at FSU and an NPR commentator, has done her research. In ?Selling Florida,? she explores the impetus behind the big money interests who push for the drilling:
And to encourage Florida citizens (and, more importantly, Florida legislators) to embrace drilling here and drilling now, Florida Energy Associates has hired three dozen lobbyists. One of their lobbyists is Claudia Diaz de la Portilla who is (what a coincidence!) married to Alex Diaz de la Portilla, senate majority leader and (another coincidence!) chairman of the Energy, Environment and Land Use Committee.
Well, now we know who you have to sleep with to get Florida?s ban on drilling repealed.
These ecological arguments are not only a must read for anyone interested in the environment and preservation of natural resources, they are a pleasurable read. In his short story, Ichthus, O. Victor Miller, a naturalist and novelist, writes about mullet, a fish with a bit of a checkered past:
Too drunk to sit in church, I kayak up the Wakulla River to sojourn with a spawning school of mullet. Ichthus is Greek for this holiest of fishes. Before there was a church, lion-wary Christians scratched icon picttographs on aqueducts and inside caves among the ancient graffiti. To them, the mullet symbolized redemption from original naughtiness and lots of other stuff. For me, the mullet is a sort of sub-aquatic dove, a transcendental spirit.
USF-Saint Petersburg's Thomas Hallock, in his essay, ?The Way of All Flesh,? writes about Treasure Island, just north of Saint Petersburg beach:
Sadly the vintage motels have not aged well. Salt air is corroding the steel in their concrete walls, causing the buildings to rot from inside. The owners, faced with increased property values, sell rather than repair. And the developers favor tall condos, which are empty most of the year. Now, instead of two-story motels tucked behind the dunes, there are rows of shuttered windows along the beach. This is how things go in Florida: what is funky, beautiful, or cool gets taken away.
The anthology?s editors did an impressive job of interspersing the serious stories with the lighthearted -- the political arguments with the personal stories -- in such a way that reading Unspoiled is not only enjoyable, but balanced. The book is informative, yet playful, tackling serious issues while reminding us of the reason why they need to be addressed.
William Bartram, The Search for Nature?s Design
University of Georgia Press 2010
Co-edited with Nancy E. Hoffman.
An important figure in early American science and letters, William Bartram (1739-1823) has been known almost exclusively for his classic book, Travels. William Bartram, The Search for Nature's Design presents new material in the form of art, letters, and unpublished manuscripts. These documents expand our knowledge of Bartram as an explorer, naturalist, artist, writer, and citizen of the early Republic.
Part One, the correspondence, includes letters to and from Bartram's family, friends, and peers, establishing his developing consciousness about the natural world as well as his passion for rendering it in drawing. The difficult business of undertaking scientific study and commercial botany in the eighteenth century comes alive through letters that detail travel arrangements, enduring hardship, and mentoring. Commonly regarded as a recluse or eccentric, Bartram instead emerges as deeply engaged with the major ideas, issues, and intellectual life of his time.
Part Two presents selections from Bartram's diverse but little-known unpublished writings. Leading scholars in their field introduce manuscripts such as a draft for Travels, garden diaries faithfully kept, an antislavery treatise scrawled on the back of a plant catalog, a commonplace book, pharmacopia compiled for his brothers, and exacting accounts of Native American culture. Each selection reveals another dimension of Bartram's unending interest in the world he encountered at home and traveling the southern colonies.
Book Review #1:
"William Bartram, the Search for Nature's Design provides, for the first time, a primary text survey of the full career of one of the most important North American naturalists of the eighteenth century, and a man whose travels, collections, gardens, writing, and expertise placed him at the center of an emergent global network of natural history correspondents. This remarkably ambitious book comes closer than any previous work on Bartram to showing us not only the whole career but also the whole person: the failed businessman, insecure son, devout Quaker, wilderness traveler, assiduous gardener, loyal friend, advisor and mentor, and tireless student of the natural world. This book provides the richest, most engaging, and most detailed picture to date of one of the most remarkable of eighteenth-century Americans. It will be a wonderful addition to knowledge in a number of cognate fields." --Michael P. Branch, editor of Reading the Roots: American Nature Writing before Walden
Book Review #2:
Here is a highly valuable collection of previously unpublished manuscript materials from the hand of William Bartram, one of a very small group of internationally prominent naturalists in the United States at its time of inception. For anyone interested in the history of gardens, botany, early ecological thinking, nature illustration, ethnography (especially of southeastern Indians), anti-slavery treatises, Quaker figures, travel literature, climate studies, pharmacology, or, American history and culture more generally, this collection of Bartram's writings and artwork is a treasure trove. For scholars who only know Bartram as the writer of Travels (1791), and as the American who influenced British Romanticism, here is copious new material (with lucid critical introductions) which shows Bartram's involvement in all the key cultural and intellectual debates of his time." --Susan Scott Parrish, author of American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial British Atlantic World
Book Review #3:
"This volume is important for anyone interested in Bartram's Travels or in the cultures of natural history more generally. The materials collected here illustrate Bartram's biography and the production of the Travels and present his participation in a range of contexts: literary natural history, visual arts, moral philosophy, anti-slavery, ethnography, commerce, medicine, gardening, field botany, Linnaean taxonomy, etc. Expert introductions provide excellent guides to these contexts. The documents are presented in a highly readable clear-text style that preserves the flavor of the original manuscripts. I've used some of these materials successfully to open the Travels for study in the undergraduate classroom." --Timothy Sweet, author of American Georgics: Economy and Environment in Early American Literature"
A Keener Perception: Ecocritical Studies in American Art History
University of Alabama Press 2009
Hallock's chapter is entitled ?Drawn from Nature: Vivification in the Botanic Art of William Bartram.?
A landmark collection of essays on the intersections of visual art, cultural studies, and environmental history in America.
Issues of ecology?both as they appear in the works of nature writers and in the works of literary writers for whom place and the land are central issues?have long been of interest to literary critics, and have given rise over the last two decades to the now firmly established field of ecocriticism. The essays in this volume, written by art historians and literary critics, seek to bring the study of American art into the expanding discourse of ecocriticism.
A Keener Perceptionoffers a series of case studies on topics ranging from John White's watercolors of the Carolina landscape executed during Sir Walter Raleigh's 1585 Roanoke expedition to photographs by environmental activist Eliot Porter. Rather than merely resurrect past instances of ecologically attuned art, this volume features essays that resituate many canonical figures, such as Thomas Eakins, Aaron Douglas, and Isamu Noguchi, in an ecocritical light by which they have yet to be viewed. Studying such artists and artworks through an ecocritical lens not only provides a better understanding of these works and the American landscape, but also brings a new interpretive paradigm to the field of art history?a field that many of these critics believe would do well to embrace environmental concerns as a vital area of research.
In highlighting the work of scholars who bring ecological agendas to their study of American art, as well as providing models for literary scholars who might like to better incorporate the visual arts into their own scholarship and teaching, A Keener Perception is truly a landmark collection?timely, consequential, and controversial.
Book Review #1:?I have been waiting for a book like this to come out for most of my academic career. The essays in A Keener Perception provide an important framework for emerging discussions around the ecocritical study of art and visual culture. The authors offer such rich and detailed visual analyses.??The Goose
Book Review #2:
?The introduction and twelve essays in this strong volume consider intriguing instances of American art that span more than four centuries. . . . Every essay here is both interesting and a pleasure to read. . . . Rich enough to repay multiple readings and likely to be loaned to many a student and colleague, this book about American visual culture is well worth its price.? ?ISLE
From the Fallen Tree: Frontier Narratives, Environmental Politics and the Roots of a National Pastoral, 1749-1826
University of North Carolina Press 2006
Anglo-American writers in the revolutionary era used pastoral images to place themselves as native to the continent, argues Thomas Hallock in From the Fallen Tree. Beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, as territorial expansion got under way in earnest, and ending with the era of Indian dispossession, the author demonstrates how authors explored the idea of wilderness and political identities in fully populated frontiers.
Hallock provides an alternative to the myth of a vacant wilderness found in later writings. Emphasizing shared cultures and conflict in the border regions, he reconstructs the milieu of Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, William Bartram, and James Fenimore Cooper, as well as lesser-known figures such as Lewis Evans, Jane Colden, Anne Grant, and Elias Boudinot. State papers, treaty documents, maps, and journals provide a rich backdrop against which Hallock reinterprets the origins of a pastoral tradition.
Combining the new western history, ecological criticism, and Native American studies, Hallock uncovers the human stories embedded in descriptions of the land. His historicized readings offer an alternative to long-accepted myths about the vanishing backcountry, the march of civilization, and a pristine wilderness. The American pastoral, he argues, grew from the anxiety of independent citizens who became colonizers themselves.
Book Review #1:"A fascinating look at early republican letters. . . . Provides a thorough 'greening' of a neglected field of early American print. . . . Well-written and deeply researched."
? American Literature
Book Review #2:
? American Historical Review
Book Review #3:
Any serious scholar or especially a writer of the American place will find this book to be essential reading. From the Fallen Tree traces foundations of the American romantic tradition from its enlightenment roots up to the nascent romanticism of James Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving, though it is clear that the argument Thomas Hallock traces extends in a clean line to this day. Along the way Hallock explicates the various ways in which narrative shapes and is shaped by events "on the ground."
One of the more interesting aspects of Hallock's arguments is how aspects of privileged, aristocratic European traditions become conflated with republican ideals in order to create an American literature that can contain both imperial and democratic aspirations. Building and expanding on the work of earlier critics, Hallock's argument is accessible, cogent and convincing; furthermore, the breadth of Hallock's reading and scholarship is impressive.
What is especially appealing is that the book moves forward in an almost linear fashion. Each section builds on the last, which gives the penultimate chapter on Cooper's Pioneers a feeling of roundness, of having completed the book's mission. When Hallock asserts that Cooper's Pioneers completes the translation of the Euro-American into the American place, the reader feels that the author has turned a corner. It is quite a compelling sensation.
A literature major finishes the book feeling that he has gained a clearer sense of what is uniquely American (and what is not) about American literature; a history buff leaves with a better understanding of what shaped Teddy Roosevelt's environmentalism; a geography enthusiast leaves with a keener sense of reverence for the connection between cartography and letters, and how they shape culture; finally, any writer interested writing about America leaves with a sense of "this is where to begin." -- Howard D. Brooking, Kennesaw, Georgia
A Sacred Plant, A New Start
December 2, 2001
St. Petersburg Times
When I asked my father if he wanted to shoot down some mistletoe on Christmas Eve, he seemed confused. "Really, Dad," I stammered over the phone, "it grows in live oak and pecan trees." Slowly he came to love the idea. My parents live in suburban Connecticut. It never occurred to them that mistletoe actually grows somewhere, much less that you could gather it yourself.
A rift in the family had created problems over how and where to celebrate Christmas. My brothers and sister wanted distance from my parents' crumbling marriage. My wife and I lived in Georgia, and we could escape most family traumas. But these holidays were different. The folks were coming. With the wounds of my father's infidelity still fresh, the hunt for mistletoe would provide a much-needed distraction.
My New Age friends offered instructions on how to harvest this sacred shrub. Druids worked during a full moon. They gathered it in bunches with a golden scythe and a white sheet under the oldest tree in their borough, never letting the leaves touch the ground for fear the mistletoe would lose its potency. The ritual restored relationships, my friends insisted, and brought us closer to nature. My dad and I had our own ideas: blasting through the woods with a thirty-ought-six. That should bring us together.
On Christmas Eve, my parents and I went to see Theresa, whose husband, Steve, owns a small arsenal. Theresa is a witch -- not a hat-and-broom witch, but a pagan who worships nature in ways that are quite common these days. She also was recovering from some family traumas of her own. This holiday was the first in more than a decade with her two daughters and grandchildren. We could heal our collective dysfunctions together. Searching for mistletoe, her bunch piled into a minivan while my family followed in the Volvo with Connecticut plates. We drove to Quitman, a tiny south Georgia town with enough pecan groves to make us all latter-day Druids.
The trek out there was tense. That morning we had gone to Unitarian services, and the speaker dwelled upon the origins of tree worship without mentioning Christ in the manger. We ate lunch at a Chinese buffet. Not very traditional. The conversation in our ride to Quitman felt forced, as we passed through the scrubby pine plantations. A cold wind whistled through the car windows; a dry heat blasted from the front. By the time we reached Brooks County, everyone needed fresh air.
Steve took out his shotgun, his earphones and a box of shells. He cocked the double-barreled rifle and aimed just above a bush near the top of a pecan tree, hoping to cut the stem. The woods nearby shook, then silence. He fired again and missed again. My father went next and blasted straight through his target. It rained branches and berries and leathery leaves, and we picked through the pile at our feet. "Peter, that was a good shot," my mother said with a kiss. Pretty weird. They could try to work out their relationship, but I felt distrustful and puzzled.
Each of us took our turn with the rifle while Theresa's son-in-law caught the falling mistletoe under the tree, gathering the untainted branches in his hat without ever letting them touch the ground.
We said our goodbyes, our merry Christmases, and Theresa's family disappeared into her daughter's minivan. Our witch was still talking when she stepped inside, a sprig of pure mistletoe poking from her jacket pocket.
That evening, my small family settled into a quiet holiday together. I hung the day's prize under the arch between our living and dining rooms. The house smelled woodsy, like evergreen and fresh smoke. My wife kissed me under our sprig of magic while my father mixed cocktails in the kitchen. We did our best to celebrate Christmas Eve. I cued up a record of big band holiday classics, plugged in the tree lights and laid out our traditional spread of herring, fancy crackers, Gouda and shrimp cocktail.
Somehow Mom persuaded me to Lindy. She called out the steps while Glenn Miller rolled through Jingle Bells and the shadows of the tree lights flickered off the ceiling. I struggled with the dance, however, and the music could not crowd out the unasked questions about our family. Why were my parents still together? Why should the kids have to pretend? Where was my dad with the drinks?
Christmas in the past had been a boisterous affair: lots of presents, dinner with a crown rack of lamb and table settings that went back three generations. This holiday felt forced, and I had to face the cracks in my parents' marriage alone. Our family needed new traditions, new rituals for healing besides the stockings, shrimp cocktail and scotch on the rocks. Mom and Dad came to Georgia because they had nowhere else to go. I sought ways to celebrate the season with them whether they stayed together or not. We sat down by the Christmas tree and tried to have a conversation. It was a quiet night.
Mistletoe hung from the archway above us.
Hallock's essay is entitled ?Looking for the Hillsborough River."