November 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Utopia – Arcadia – Forest

I’ve now read “In the Realm of the Lithuanian Bison”, the first chapter of Landscape and Memory. So far, I feel I have come across some interesting ideas presented by Schama. One of them is the idea of the wilderness of the deepest parts of the forest as a sort of “primitive paradise”.

Schama first connects the primeval forest with the idea of Arcadia on page 67, when he says that the writings of the Greek traveller and geographer Pausianias, describes the historical province Arcadia (from which the utopian Arcadia has derived its name) as an unruly wilderness, teeming with wild boars, and the people who lived in the forests there were more animal-like than they were human. The “heart” of the forest, the primeval wilderness untouched by human civilization, is like a primitive forestial paradise, where Nature rules alone.

Later on, as Schama writes about Adam Mieckiewicz epic poem Pan Tadeusz , he reconnects to this idea and elaborates on it (p. 81). The protagonist Tadeusz travels by horse through the forest and as he arrives at the deepest, darkest part of the forest, it is a place of death and decay; sick and deformed trees with branches covered in moss and trunks attacked by fungi. Behind a thick fog lies a “primitive paradise”, or as Schama describes it, a zoological Utopia. An “Ark” containing archetypical animals who send out their offspring from their secret inner city, but they themselves remain there.


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