chapter  28
Environmental Determinism and American Literature
Historicizing geography and form
ByRebecca Walsh
Pages 11

This chapter begins with Semple to historicize the role of the spatial in modern American history and in so doing to suggest the importance of historicizing within spatial literary projects the epistemologies that inform, liberate, and/or constrain the geographic imagination. The contemporaneous popularity and reach of environmental determinism as well as its own interdisciplinary borrowings mean that its relationship to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literature must be accounted for. Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literature serves as a flashpoint for the challenges of what it means to put disciplinary geography and literature in dialogue in a manner that is both historicized and sensitized to form/genre. The terms of environmental determinism's dismissal beyond the boundaries of geography signal its seeming incompatibility with the values of an emerging literary modernism. Environmental determinism held undeniable historical influence on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American culture, despite its various flaws.