Into the Wilderness: The Lewis and Clark Expedition (New Books for New Readers)

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Temporarily Out of Stock Online Please check back later for updated availability. Overview "When Thomas Jefferson sent a team of explorers to discover a way to the Pacific Ocean two hundred years ago, the western border of the United States was the Mississippi River. Product Details Table of Contents.

Exploring Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Men and Wilderness

Table of Contents Foreword iv Acknowledgments v Introduction 1 1. Thomas Jefferson's Dream 3 2. Down the Ohio 10 3. Up the Missouri 19 4. To the Pacific 31 5. He is the award-winning author of three previous books—most recently, The Natures of John and William Bartram—and is the editor of three others,… More about Thomas P.

Delves deep and asks questions that will forever change [our] reading of these men.

Into the Wilderness: The Lewis and Clark Expedition

It is about ambition, courage, confusion, and the creation of our national origins myth. It is not a traditional narrative history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, of which we have many fine examples. It is instead an attempt to read between and beneath the lines of the incredible journals that the men kept, to understand more than they wanted us to know or could even know about themselves and their trip. I started this book twice, once about twelve years ago, when it was going to be about explorers of North American from Columbus to Lewis and Clark.

That first time, I got sucked out of the project by the Bartrams, who were of some influence on Lewis, and about whom I knew nothing when I started the research. Their story as father and son, Quaker botanists, and travelers was fascinating to me in itself and also transformed the way that I looked at the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

More from The Quarterly Conversation:

The journals of explorers are fascinating because their authors do not know where they are headed. They are stories written by people who have no idea what is around the next bend, never mind how their journeys will end. When we use them simply as sources of fact-where people were and what they did on particular days-we miss the emotional content, the frailties, the challenges, the mistakes, and the disappointments that reveal the deeper humanity of their authors and connect them to us.

The celebrations of Lewis and Clark miss much of this story, I think, and it is one that needs to be told.


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When I started the book for the second time, during a year that I spent as a resident fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavior Sciences in Palo Alto, California, the project was transformed from my first plan. Now, I was more interested in digging deeply into the journals rather than reaching widely across time to connect them with other expeditions. This is something that I still may do some day, but first I wanted to wallow in the approximately 1.

Although they were not fully conscious of it themselves, the explorers engaged in an exploration of the self and it was for some of them transforming, more of a vision quest than a scientific and diplomatic mission. It tries to comprehend Indian perspectives, to imagine what communication may have been like down translation chains that included four or five languages. In the end, I think, the book is about nature, culture, spirituality, and men. It is about the emotional dimensions of exploration and writing.

Western American Literature

It is about how fascinating the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition are for learning about ourselves as people and a nation. It is a book about us.

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