oa Alternation - Terror, error or refuge: forests in Western literature

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1023-1757



The forest in Western literature and culture has often been perceived existing in Manichean opposition to civilization, enlightenment or even morality. A history-both psychological and social-of this tradition offered in Robert Pogue Harrison's compelling book, Forests: The Shadow of Civilization (1992). Forests, according to Jungian psychology, generally symbolize the unconscious (Bishop 1995: 309; Progoff 1992:44); they are often full of frightening uncertainties and real dangers, reminding humans the distant past of their species, when absence of rational understanding the natural world left them at the mercy of cruel and mysterious forces. Since both Europe and North America were originally thickly wooded (Holmes 2000:83), forests were the cluttered and darkened spaces that had be cleared in order to let in enlightenment and build the courtly cities. Harrison cites as his earliest literary example the ancient epic of Gilgame whose protagonist's first heroic act is to defeat the forest demon Huway an action that represents the cutting down of a sacred cedar forest (Harris 1992: 14-18).

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error