tags: Top Young Historians
Follow Humboldt up the river, watch as that jaguar pokes its head out of the forest to drink: you'll stare into its eyes, and suddenly you'll sense both its viciousness and its innocence. Better than any modern writer I've come across, Humboldt captures the miraculousness and bafflement that have characterized my own wildlife sightings and my immersions in unfamiliar natural worlds. He understands how experience can undermine any classic understandings of natural beauty or peacefulness, how a landscape can be"at once wild and tranquil, gloomy and attractive." He grants nature its own separate reality, acknowledges that its workings are vastly complicated and utterly different from our own, yet reminds us that this is where we come from. -- Aaron Sachs in"The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism" (Viking, 2006) "Through the lives of Americans who followed or echoed Humboldt, this fascinating, insightful book gives us a brilliant new account of U.S. geography and ecology, exploration and eccentricity." --Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Prince of Asturias Professor at Tufts University, and Professorial Fellow of Queen Mary, University of London. "In this magnificent book, Aaron Sachs re-introduces us to a forgotten giant, Alexander von Humboldt, who cast an extraordinary spell over our Victorian ancestors and inspired some of the most heroic adventures in American science. Humboldt, Sachs reminds us, was a revolutionary figure whose bold vision of global ecology and human fellowship remains as urgent as ever." -- Mike Davis, author of"Planet of Slums" "In this groundbreaking book, Aaron Sachs plucks from relative obscurity the nineteenth-century Prussian scientist Alexander von Humboldt and demonstrates his profound, lasting influence on many aspects of American culture, including literature, art, science, and environmentalism." -- David S. Reynolds, author of"John Brown, Abolitionist" "The Humboldt Current is a dazzling debut performance by a young scholar-writer of extraordinary gifts. The book itself is a gift--or carefully researched, and beautifully expressed, and deeply humane, understanding. This is one of those rare works in which historical learning makes a lasting difference on our way of seeing both past and present worlds." -- John Demos, author of"The Unredeemed Captive" "Alexander von Humboldt is always in season. Aaron Sachs gives us a heartfelt meditation on an engaging gallery of American Humboldtians." -- Stephen J. Pyne, author of"How the Canyon Became Grand" "Alexander von Humboldt was one of my heroes, as were the explorer-scientists of the American West, and writers such as Whitman and Thoreau, precursors of cosmic consciousness and American environmentalism. But it never occurred to me to bring them all together in one all-encompassing, yet detailed, narrative. That is left to Aaron Sachs in a work of striking originality, meticulous scholarship, and deep humanist sympathy." -- Yi-Fu Tuan, author of"Escapism" "As a work of history, The Humboldt Current is impressive. It is smartly conceived nd superbly written. Most important, it argues persuasively that the course of American empire was 'many-sided and intensely contested' (18), even by those whose explorations led the way." -- Gregory Summers, U Wisconsin-Stevens Point, in"History: Reviews of New Books," Vol. 34 (Summer 2006) "Sachs creates a different relation between past and present that is quite un-Whiggish and quite liberating. The book is smart, closely observed, lively, and full of sharply etched characters, who carry his story.... Sachs narrates the lives of these men movingly and well, and he is aware of their contradictions and their struggles." -- Richard White, Stanford U., in"Raritan," Vol. 26 (Fall 2006) "Sachs has a huge agenda to push: overthrowing white, Anglo-Saxon dominance, capitalism, and imperialism, and debunking the leading figures in the history of nature preservation. His book is original, ambitious, provocative, at times enthralling.... As a history of exploration, it is brilliant, imaginative, and bold. Like the great Humboldt, Sachs has taken us to new worlds, given us new meanings." -- Donald Worster, U. Kansas, in"The American Scholar" (Autumn 2006) "The book's greatest achievement lies in its deeply impressive scope, its integration not just of science and exploration, but also of the art, literature, and politics of the 19th century. In this, the author achieves a unity and harmony of vision not unlike that of Humboldt himself." -- Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2006) "It's a safe assumption that Napoleon's derision was born less out of comfortable superiority than of bitter jealousy. Napoleon ruled France, but Humboldt, the central figure in Aaron Sachs's ambitious first book,"The Humboldt Current," was the toast of all of Europe, as well as a subject of great admiration in the fledgling country across the sea....Sachs, who teaches history and American studies at Cornell University, argues that Humboldt left an indelible mark not just on American science but also on American history.... Sachs's subjects are strong, and he describes them in extensive detail." -- Candice Millard in the"New York Times Book Review" "Sachs is clearly smitten with his subject, and his enthusiasm bubbles over in the lively chapters he devotes to Humboldt's life.... Sachs has done something worthy of gratitude: He has reintroduced a 19th century sage to a generation that sorely needs his wisdom. Given the precarious state of our planet, we would have done well to remember Humboldt sooner and better." -- Judith Lewis in the"Los Angeles Times" "The Humboldt Current is an astonishingly good piece of writing and research, and an essential piece of American naturalist history that has been too long in coming. Science and history buffs and the lay reader will equally enjoy this outstanding book." -- "Science Book Reviews," September 14, 2006 "Highly skilled discussion leader. Lots of reading, but really interesting and fresh material. Interested in helping students develop writing skills and encourages taking"intellectual risks" in papers (ex. lots of self-reflective writing). This class was by far the coolest class I've taken here yet: included a weekend-long backpacking field trip!"..."Sachs is obviously passionate about what he is teaching and makes the topic interesting."..."Sachs really is interested in what he is teaching, and it shows. Class is lively and he really is interested in what students have to add to discussion and even lecture. One of my favorites for sure." -- Anonymous Students
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tags: Top Young Historians
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