By T. S. McMillin

Within the continental usa, rivers serve to attach country to country, inside with external, the previous to the current, yet in addition they divide areas and peoples from each other. those connections and divisions have given upward thrust to a various physique of literature that explores American nature, starting from go back and forth bills of seventeenth-century Puritan colonists to journal articles by way of twenty-first-century fanatics of utmost activities. utilizing pivotal American writings to figure out either what literature can let us know approximately rivers and, conversely, how rivers support us take into consideration the character of literature, The that means of Rivers introduces readers to the wealthy international of flowing water and a few of the various ways that American writers have used rivers to appreciate the realm during which those waters flow.      Embracing a hybrid, essayistic form—part literary thought, half cultural historical past, and half fieldwork—The that means of Rivers connects the arts to different disciplines and scholarly paintings to the land. even if constructing a thought of palindromes or interpreting works of yank literature as diversified as Henry David Thoreau's per week at the harmony and Merrimack Rivers and James Dickey’s Deliverance, McMillin urges readers towards a transcendental retracing in their personal interpretive encounters.      the character of texts and the character of “nature” require various and flexible interpretation; interpretation calls for not just intensity and focus but in addition ingenious pondering, broad-mindedness, and engaged connection-making. via taking us upstream in addition to down, McMillin attracts realization to the potential for rivers for making improvements to our feel of position and time. 

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In this chapter I consider some of the works that highlight by-the-river relations and the different ways in which writers have applied those relations to other problems and questions. Because this category comprises the most basic and common experience of the river, there are countless texts from which to choose. Those I have chosen represent different genres of writing and diverse periods of American literary history; they also apply the situation of being by the river to a diversity of uses.

To know the river is to know its limits and to transcend time, transferring one’s thoughts to eternity and the soul’s relation to the divine. For Bradstreet, the river can teach us a thing or two about change, time, finitude, and infinity. In “Contemplations,” as in much of her poetry, she represents “the struggle between the visible and the invisible worlds,” and ultimately the poem redefines that struggle through its use of the river. Nature is not opposed to or a distraction from the truth but rather functions as a medium through which the truth may be obtained.

Various features of the river are only “noted” if they affect navigation; they “mean” something only if the reader of the river finds them valuable to that task; and they “refer” only to the particular functions of “this great science” of piloting. But in “Continued Perplexities” Twain makes clear that so wonderful a wealth of meanings brings with it poetic poverty: “No, 20╇ |╇ Overlooking the River the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river. , from the perspective of the steamboat’s pilothouse), the knowledge of the river acquired by the cub is a positive asset, free and clear.

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