Changing Connotations Of Wilderness Essay

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American anarchist, author, poet, and leading Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” Thoreau believed that there was something about the wild, the wilderness that had a salvation like quality to it. To Thoreau, wilderness was a means of tapping into the essence of the human experience. Yet, after a quick investigation through history, it becomes clear that wilderness has not always had this redemptive quality attributed to it. As William Cronon points out, “As late as the eighteenth century, the most common usage of the word “wilderness” in the English language referred to landscapes that generally carried adjectives far different from the ones they attract today. To be a wilderness…show more content…
According to Cronon, wilderness is inherently unnatural because we create it and define what it is and it’s boundaries. He reasons that this is so because what brought us to the wilderness is an entirely cultural invention, brought upon by the changing culture in America and industrialization/modernization. These changing economic and political times was what led to Americans seeking what Scottish naturalist John Muir would call “the wilderness experience.” Cronon goes on to say that the two cultural constructs that intrigued Americans to rethink wilderness and seek out “the wilderness experience” were the ideas of “the sublime” and “the frontier.” He writes, “The two [the sublime and the frontier] converged to remake wilderness in their own image, freighting it with moral values and cultural symbols that it carries to this day.” Clearly, American culture was shaping wilderness and displaying it more as a cultural product than pure natural

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