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In 1960, George Oppen and his wife Mary settled in New York City after a period of nine years of political exile in Mexico. Oppen was the author of a slim volume of poems entitled Discrete Series, published back in 1934 with a then highly desirable preface by Ezra Pound. Few of Oppen's contemporaries, however, would remember him now as a poet, and back in New York he was having to reckon with what he would term in a later interview “my rejection of poetry for twenty or twenty-five years.”. For only at the end of the fifties, at the very end of the period spent in Mexico, had Oppen begun to write again. Success would come to him later in the decade, with the award of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, but, for the time being, as Oppen observed of the rather similar case of Basil Bunting, he felt as if he had returned to poetry “as from the dead.”
In 1875, a year from the upcoming centennial celebrations, Frederick Douglass commemorated the African American presence in the nation's revolutionary past and Reconstruction present. “If … any man should ask me what colored people have to do with the Fourth of July, my answer is ready,” he proclaimed to a black audience in Washington, DC. “Colored people have had something to do with almost everything of vital importance in the life and progress of this great country” from its beginnings in 1776 to its greatest test in 1861 and beyond. Douglass drew upon the Revolution's legacies of liberty and democracy, urging his listeners to meet the challenge of incorporating themselves into the nation's citizenry despite sustained white resistance. Albeit a tall order, he placed this agenda in a broader perspective: “The fathers of this Republic … had their trial ninety-nine years ago. The colored citizens of this Republic are about to have their trial now.” The moment was full of possibilities: African Americans, he emphasized, faced comparable obstacles and hardships much like the founders themselves. Implied too within Douglass's invocation of the revolutionaries was the potential heroism and accomplishments of which African Americans were similarly capable, just as they had proven in the past.
Maps, recent cultural geographers are fond of reminding us, are products of the specific ideology from which they are written. A proper reading of a map, one that attends to it as a cultural product, can discover – even deconstruct – the ideological and cultural assumptions upon which its act of mapping is grounded. For Stephen Daniels and Denis Cosgrove, the metaphor of the map provides a crucially important analytic tool for disentangling the ways in which systems of power may be seen to work within – and through – a text. They note that, under the influence of post-structuralist theory, it has become commonplace to think of a text as a “discursive ‘terrain’ across which ‘sites’ of power may be ‘mapped’.” Clearly, then, cartographic metaphors are useful in discussing literary texts in that they can accommodate an examination of both the overt and covert operations of those texts in their representations of the cultural and ideological landscape from which they are produced. Indeed, to map the world is to make that world readable, to make it familiar; but, like any text – or, in the particular case of this essay, Gary Snyder's poetic sequence Mountains and Rivers Without End (1996) – a map does more than simply describe a discursive terrain. Such descriptions also enact the conditions of their cultural production.
The economy of time, and our obligation to spend every hour for some useful end, are what few minds properly realize.
Catharine Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841)
There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Or, Life in the Woods (1854)
In his seminal 1967 essay “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” E. P. Thompson codified the theory that modern life, characterized by capitalism and industry, would not be possible without the regulating, organizing, and disciplining power of the clock. The theory of clock time's importance to modernity, first proposed by Georg Simmel around the turn of the twentieth century and later adopted by Lewis Mumford, became conventional wisdom among social and economic historians writing after Thompson's brilliant exposition. The introduction of mechanical clocks into factories in England, Thompson argues, resulted in a “restructuring of working habits” and a concomitant change in the “inward notation of time” that led individuals to accept the industrial revolution's basic premises of quantifiable wage labor and systematic production. According to Thompson's successors, historians such as David Landes, the relationship between clocks and other forms of modernization has been recursive; advances in technology have made it possible to measure time more accurately, and this greater accuracy has in turn facilitated greater productivity, more efficient transportation networks (think of railroad timetables), and the punctuality so important to modern business. Moreover, political theorists have argued that the ubiquitous experience of precisely measured time has been fundamental to linking individuals into self-consciously modern national groups, “imagined communities” in Benedict Anderson's terms, moving forward together through a shared historical simultaneity. The result of temporal modernization, this very diverse group of thinkers agrees, has been a world made over both economically and politically to suit the clockwork rationality of the capitalist market.
Biographers commonly describe Calvin Coolidge as having had a sound, comfortable, supportive upbringing. Fuess writes, for example, that Coolidge's early life was “simple, wholesome and unfurtive.” White and McCoy point out that the Coolidges were “aristocrats” and that Calvin was “a young prince” who was “brought up in as much luxury as could be expected in Plymouth township.”. However, a close analysis suggests strongly that the childhood years of Calvin Coolidge were marked by great sadness and dislocation. He was an extraordinarily shy boy who had few friends and often was lonely. His father, John Coolidge, was frequently absent from the household, either because of his service in the Vermont state legislature or his various business activities. As Lynch and Kilmartin point out, a father who is physically or emotionally missing from his son's life leaves scars on the boy's psychological development.