WAYMARKING ITALY’S INFLUENCE ON THE AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL IMAGINATION WHILE ON PILGRIMAGE TO ASSISI
By Robert L. France, Cambridge Scholars, 2020.
Waymarking Italy’s Influence on the American Environmental Imagination While on Pilgrimage to Assisi describes a peripatetic pilgrimage that is equal parts a daily description of a 200-kilometre walk from the “wounded mountain” of La Verna to the “tortured river” near Assisi, and an examination of the incredible debt owed to Italy in terms of ecocultural and environmental thought. Rooted in the philosophy of Tim Ingold (Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description, 2011), the book provides an innovative addition to the nascent field of ecocritical narrative scholarship. Through a process that has been referred to as “deep-travel” or “mind-walking,” the text fulsomely reviews how time spent in Italy influenced the writings of notable North American scholars concerning the conception and manipulation of the natural world. This literary field study, patterned on the approach undertaken by Ian Marshall and Corey Lee Lewis during their respective long-distance walks, highlights how the phenomenological co-traversing of texts and trails can be a valued methodology for undertaking environmental criticism. The book is designed to be a sequel to Gary Paul Nabhan’s 1993 Songbirds, Truffles, and Wolves: An American Naturalist in Italy, whose ahead-of-its-time steps, both physical paces and conceptual pages, were closely followed.
During the daily pilgrimage walk, the works of sixteen scholars, many from New England, are closely examined. Many other sources, both ancient and modern, are also reviewed in bookend sections that focus on writings about the environmental history of Italy, early Italian impressions of nature, and contemporary Italian environmental criticism, planning, and science. An unusual feature is the attention given to what Lawrence Buell and Dana Phillips have commented upon in terms of the narrowness of the prefix “eco” in ecocriticism, and the confusion of many about the words “environment” and “ecology.” And so, in addition to nature writers, the book also considers environmental historians, geographers, and scientists, as well as landscape architects, architectural historians, and restoration theorists.
A bespoke website has been specifically created for the book, in which information is provided on all the scholarly works covered, in addition to details about chapter topics, and much else: www.assisipilgrimagebook.com.