Enchanted Forests: The Poetic Construction of a World before Time (Hardcover)

Enchanted Forests: The Poetic Construction of a World before Time By Boria Sax Cover Image
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Linking literature, philosophy, art, and personal experience, a moving exploration of the wooded landscape’s power.
In 1985 Boria Sax inherited an area of forest in New York State, which had been purchased by his Russian, Jewish, and Communist grandparents as a buffer against what they felt was a hostile world. For Sax, in the years following, the woodland came to represent a link with those who currently live and had lived there, including Native Americans, settlers, bears, deer, turtles, and migrating birds. In this personal and eloquent account, Sax explores the meanings and cultural history of forests from prehistory to the present, taking in Gilgamesh, Virgil, Dante, the Gawain poet, medieval alchemists, the Brothers Grimm, Hudson River painters, Latin American folklore, contemporary African novelists, and much more. Combining lyricism with contemporary scholarship, Sax opens new emotional, intellectual, and environmental perspectives on the storied history of the forest.

About the Author

Boria Sax teaches at Sing Sing Prison and online in the Graduate Literature Program at Mercy College. He has published many books, which have won awards and been translated into numerous languages.

Praise For…

"'Every conception of the forest is a kind of cosmology,' writes author Sax in this fascinating meander through the rich woodlands of literature and visual art. . . . For some writers today, forests are communities of cooperative talking trees. Others see competitive individualism, each trunk a reminder of the Darwinian struggle for life. Forests are imagined as numbers, too: metric tons of carbon or cubic meters of timber. Sax reminds us that these symbols and projections change how we treat one another and the land. Implicit is the challenge to rethink our stories. Are we like medieval kings, taking the forest by right, or can we find narratives of reciprocity with forests and forest-dwelling cultures?"
— David Haskell

"Sax’s Enchanted Forests spurs the imagination. . . . This engaging, scholarly volume summarizes how, throughout history, human beings have conceptualized and portrayed forests in written and visual art. . . . This rich and accessible book considers an astonishing array of ideas. . . . Enchanted Forests is a brilliant introduction to the art and literature of the forest, examining how people conceive of the wilderness beyond the edges of civilization."
— Foreword Reviews

"The New York Botanical Garden contains a forest advertised as ‘virgin,' although its trees offer no indisputable evidence that it has never been logged. Yet, other trees’ 'scars,' 'twists' and 'breaks' tell fascinating stories about their histories, says author Sax. His cultural history of forests from prehistory to today—inspired by his owning a forest in New York State—draws on writers and artists including Virgil, Dante, the Brothers Grimm, the Hudson River painters and Latin American folklorists."
— Nature

“At the heart of Sax’s wide-ranging and erudite book is a single question: What does the forest mean to us? His answers send him flying across cultures and continents from Little Red Riding Hood and The Epic of Gilgamesh to Dante’s silva oscura, via Walt Disney, the ruins of former civilizations and much else besides. . . . Among the most thought-provoking and lyrical passages of Enchanted Forests are those in which the author ponders time and the tricks such settings play with it; 'let us remember,' he writes, 'that a river never runs entirely straight.' The forest also, he suggests, operates like a vast archive, storing not only carbon dioxide but also our shared sense of history and culture—the things that make us who we are. An eloquent advocate for forests as places to which we entrust our stories, Sax gives us yet more reasons to value and preserve them.”
— World of Interiors

"This is an immensely rich cultural history of woodlands and covers a huge range of subjects, which makes it constantly fascinating and stimulating. Whether writing about folklore, cathedrals, contemporary environmental threats, art history or ever-changing, but often recurring, human attitudes to wilderness, Sax is both enlightening and a provoker of serious reflection. . . . Enchanted Forests is full of insights and for me has produced many ‘wow’ moments. . . . I will be treasuring this book and reading it again. The past and future of forests being such a vital part of our cultural and actual landscape, this has felt like an urgent read."
— Pilgrim

"We generally take forests for granted, but Sax, in this elegant history, reveals their glory and importance. When we look at our devastation of forests throughout the world, and how ignorant we are about the value of trees, it is a crime that we don't know more about their existence. Sax's graceful analysis guides us through all kinds of enchanted forests throughout history that need more respect than they have received."
— Jack Zipes, professor emeritus, University of Minnesota

“Put on your hiking boots and prepare for an adrenaline-fueled journey around the world with Sax as your expert guide. Make stops with Gilgamesh at the Cedar Forest of Lebanon, with Dante as he enters a dark forest, and with Joseph Conrad’s Marlow as he navigates his way down a river to the Congo. Behold Yggdrasil of Nordic mythologies, the Cosmic Tree that grows in Siberia, or the Waq Waq tree in medieval Arab belief systems. Beauty and wisdom flash out at us on every page of this captivating volume.”
— Maria Tatar, author of "The Heroine with 1001 Faces"

"Enchanted Forests is a book that will take the reader through the deep, dark woods and yet enlighten, entertain, and enthrall. Sax has brought together knowledge from many fields, and the ease with which he moves between them shows his intense engagement with the subject. It is a must-read for all those who love forests."
— Sadhana Naithani, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Product Details
ISBN: 9781789147902
ISBN-10: 1789147905
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: December 5th, 2023
Pages: 288
Language: English