The meaning of rivers : flow and reflection in American literature /

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Main Author: McMillin, T. S.
Format: Book
Published:Iowa City : University of Iowa Press, c2011.
Series:American land and life series.
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Review by Choice Review

McMillin's study of the meaning of rivers in American literature meanders along at a leisurely pace. Though McMillin (English, Oberlin College) intends the book as a "field guide," the pedantic prose will limit its audience to scholars. He organizes the book into six sections devoted, respectively, to overlooking, by, up, down, crossing, and "up and down" the river. In each he chronicles those who have dipped a proverbial toe in the water--Mark Twain, Anne Bradstreet, Langston Hughes, and Pocahontas, to name just a few. McMillin is interested not in stories in which rivers serve as symbols of freedom, the West, travel, and so on, but rather in "confluence of meaning and flowing water." He alternates between a rhetorical strategy and long quoted passages that justify his analysis (e.g., he looks at Edward Abbey's journey down the river as a plunge into the "sublime wilderness"). As a result of its organizational hodgepodge, and because McMillin does not draw on current research into creative nonfiction, autobiography, and travel writing (e.g., theories of Leah Gilmore, Sidonie Smith, Julia Watson), the book reads like an old-fashioned, almost quaint musing about the meaning of life and rivers. Still, those acquainted with American literature will enjoy the scenery. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. J. M. Wood Park University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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