Cover image for Nature's state : imagining Alaska as the last frontier
Nature's state : imagining Alaska as the last frontier
Kollin, Susan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvi, 224 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS283.A4 K65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



An engaging blend of environmental theory and literary studies, Nature's State looks behind the myth of Alaska as America's "last frontier," a pristine and wild place on the fringes of our geographical imagination. Susan Kollin traces how this seemingly marginal space in American culture has in fact functioned to alleviate larger social anxieties about nature, ethnicity, and national identity.

Kollin pays special attention to the ways in which concerns for the environment not only shaped understandings of Alaska, but also aided U.S. nation-building projects in the Far North from the late nineteenth century to the present era. Beginning in 1867, the year the United States purchased Alaska, a variety of literary and cultural texts helped position the region as a crucial staging ground for territorial struggles between native peoples, Russians, Canadians, and Americans. In showing how Alaska has functioned as a contested geography in the nation's spatial imagination, Kollin addresses writings by a wide range of figures, including early naturalists John Muir and Robert Marshall, contemporary nature writers Margaret Murie, John McPhee, and Barry Lopez, adventure writers Jack London and Jon Krakauer, and native authors Nora Dauenhauer, Robert Davis, and Mary TallMountain.

Author Notes

Susan Kollin is associate professor of English at Montana State University in Bozeman

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Kollin (Montana State Univ., Bozeman) has produced a thoroughly researched and well-argued book on the role that Alaska has played in the national psyche. Working with literary and popular cultural sources, the author investigates the images of Alaska created in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although some attention has been paid to literary images of Alaska, too little has been written that offers a critical examination of the representations produced by environmental, conservation, and commercial interests. Kollin effectively links these representations with the agendas of imperialism and consumerism, but she also unpacks the loaded representations created by wilderness and environmentalist rhetoric. She explores the work of John Muir, Robert Marshall, John McPhee, Rex Beach, Lois Chisler, Margaret Murie, and other writers. Especially interesting is the chapter on Alaska native writers who may feel the sting of progress but reject the empty landscape of wilderness. Kollin acknowledges the hybridity of their position, but she shies away from exploring the political and cultural coherence of their positions for fear of turning them into essentialized representations. Highly recommended for those wishing to build an understanding of the way Alaska and the concept of wilderness have influenced the American concept of self. All levels. J. Ruppert University of Alaska Fairbanks

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
Introduction: Inventing the Last Frontierp. 1
Chapter 1 The Wild, Wild North: Nature Writing, National Ecologies, and Alaskap. 23
Chapter 2 Border Fictions: Frontier Adventure and the Literature of U.S. Expansion in Canadap. 59
Chapter 3 Domestic Ecologies and the Making of Wilderness: White Women, Nature Writing, and Alaskap. 91
Chapter 4 Beyond the Whiteness of Wilderness: Alaska Native Writers and Environmental Sovereigntyp. 127
Conclusion: Toward an Environmental Cultural Studiesp. 161
Notesp. 179
Bibliographyp. 199
Indexp. 215