Deep Map Country: Literary Cartography of the Great Plains

Deep Map Country: Literary Cartography of the Great Plains

Deep Map Country: Literary Cartography of the Great Plains

Deep Map Country: Literary Cartography of the Great Plains

Synopsis

Taking its name from the subtitle of William Least Heat-Moon's Prairy Erth (a deep map), the "deep-map" form of nonfiction and environmental writing defines an innovative and stratigraphic literary genre. Proposing that its roots can be found in Great Plains nonfiction writing, Susan Naramore Maher explores the many facets of this vital form of critique, exploration, and celebration that weaves together such elements of narrative as natural history, cultural history, geography, memoir, and intertextuality. Maher's Deep Map Country gives readers the first book-length study of the deep-map nonfiction of the Great Plains region, featuring writers as diverse as Julene Bair, Sharon Butala, Loren Eiseley, Don Gayton, Linda Hasselstrom, William Least Heat-Moon, John Janovy Jr., John McPhee, Kathleen Norris, and Wallace Stegner. Deep Map Country examines the many layers of storytelling woven into their essays: the deep time of geology and evolutionary biology; the cultural history of indigenous and settlement communities; the personal stories of encounters with this expansive terrain; the political and industrial stories that have affected the original biome and Plains economies; and the spiritual dimensions of the physical environment that press on everyday realities.

Excerpt

An effort to understand the historical influence of the Great Plains
on American civilization would be futile without a clear com
prehension of the physical forces that have worked and continue
to work in that region. These forces, historically speaking, are
constant and eternal; therefore they make a permanent factor
in the interpretation of history—one that must be understood.
Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains

For twenty-seven years I called the Great Plains home and took many journeys on national, state, and county roads to explore its many regions and cultures. I have criss-crossed from east to west as well as all the way up and down this grand expanse of North America, from Canada to the southern reaches of the Plains. David J. Wishart, geographer and editor of the definitive Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, describes the Great Plains in this way: the “distinctive southern boundary of the Great Plains … is pinched out at the Rio Grande by the convergence of the Coastal Plain and the Mexican Highland section of the Basin and Range province.” the eastern boundary is less clarified. For his volume, Wishart states, “Our boundary follows the eastern border of the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, including these entire units in the region.” the Rocky Mountains “from Alberta to New Mexico” mark “the least ambiguous limit of the Great Plains” and shape the long western reaches of the grasslands. in the north, in Canada, “the Parkland Belt of mixed woodland and grassland and the boreal forest” demarcate the final border of this immense landscape. Within this physical geography are . . .

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