Sea History 073 - Spring 1995

Page 45

different world. Here and there these peoples struggle to preserve their native cultures and Mike Krieger is right there with them , on lonely beaches and remote inland mountain trails, recording his dayto-day experiences among them. His previous book , Tramp, was a classic account of the vanishing world of the tramp steamer, and Conversations is a classic that should be read by anyone concerned about the survival of native cultures in a world fast closing in on them. The book is worth getting your hands on for Appendix A alone, "The Reverend Billy's Sermon."





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America and the Sea: A Literary History, edited by Haskell Springer (Uni-


versity of Georgia Press, Athens GA, 1995 , 4 l 3pp, illus , biblio , index , ISBN 0-8203-1651-2; $40hc) Excluding the busy industry of scholarship on the life and works of Herman Melville, comparatively little scholarly attention has been given to the persistent role of the sea in American literary history. The sea as a frontier of trial and inspiration , theme and symbol, has been far less studied than the overworked , land-locked "wild west."Yetas this handsome volume demonstrates , there can be no thorough knowledge of American literature without investigating its enduring concern with the sea. Exploring Europeans advanced westward across the Atlantic, an expanse as vital to them culturally and economically as it was to the fishing and whaling Native Americans on the other shore. Their perceptions of the sea, conditioned by theology, fear and desire, supplied them with powerful metaphors of damnation, deliverance, spiritual chaos and Divine Providence. In diaries, logs, poems, sermons and, eventually , in novels and plays , the awesome and harrowing experience of sea voyaging and the rigors of life aboard ships provide ample motive, imagery , mood, diction and cosmic speculation for American writers. In Melville and Twain, as in Homer, the journey from place to place is also a psychic journey from one consciousness to another. Indeed the concept of the sea is so imaginatively pervasive that some of the most moving works of American literature are produced by inland writers, like Emily Dickinson, who seldom traveled anywhere physically. American literature is shown here to be the product also of political , ecoSEA HISTORY 73, SPRING 1995


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