In the First Country of Places

Nature, Poetry, and Childhood Memory

By Louise Chawla

Subjects: Educational Psychology
Series: SUNY series in Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology
Paperback : 9780791420744, 234 pages, September 1994
Hardcover : 9780791420737, 234 pages, September 1994

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Table of contents




1. Placing the Past

2. Childhood and Nature

3. Confrontations: William Bronk and Henry Weinfield

4. Reconciliation: David Ignatow

5. Connections: Audre Lorde and Marie Ponsot

6. Childhood and Nature Reconsidered

7. A Recollective Psychology





In the First Country of Places explores how people's personal philosophies of nature shape their childhood memories and self-identities. Drawing upon written work and original interviews, the book describes uses of memory through the perspectives of five American Poets who represent different contemporary beliefs: William Bronk, David Ignatow, Audre Lorde, Marie Ponsot, and Henry Weinfield. These authors present their relationships with nature and childhood in the context of major Western traditions of philosophy and religion. Each poet confronts the modern scientific image of an alien nature within which histories of individuals are insignificant; and three poets elaborate alternative versions of connection with nature and their own past. This work opens new directions in the psychology of memory, developmental and environmental psychology, environmental studies, and the study of American poetry.

Louise Chawla is Associate Professor at Whitney Young College, an interdisciplinary honors college at Kentucky State University. She has written numerous book chapters and articles on environmental autobiography and children's environmental experience.


"I have a great respect for the way in which Dr. Chawla has been able to address and integrate a diverse set of literatures—environmental psychology, developmental psychology, phenomenology, literature and literary criticism, nature studies, and feminist theory. I am not surprised at the breadth of her insights because she has been so clear about her hermeneutic and phenomenological approach to the questions about childhood memories, nature, and developmental psychology—only that she does it so well. " — Lynda H. Schneekloth, State University of New York at Buffalo

"It is more than an academic book. Because of its topic, and approach, it is a book which will have personal as well as academic appeal. " — Kenneth Olwig, Odense University, Denmark

"The author's discussion of the gender differences between poets is important. Her advocacy of poetry as a source of understanding is cogent and exciting. " — Tom Greeves, Cultural Environmentalist