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Book on man's relation to nature

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This book wouldn't be for everyone, but I found it an interesting an engaging read. A View to a Death in the Morning, by Matt Cartmill (Harvard University Press, 1993), is an examination of man's attitudes towards hunting and nature through the history of Western civilization, from Ancient Greece up to modern times.The book starts with a discussion of the "hunting hypothesis", a theory in anthropology that proposed that man's ancestors were violent, male-dominated, territorial, blood-thirsty killers of one another, hitting each other with bones and other weapons, and that man was therefore an inherently violent creature. This theory was very popular in the 1960s and eventually worked its way into popular culture through two movies, both of which came out in 1968. "Planet of the Apes", but more so, the opening prehistoric sequences of "2001".

Anyway, the thing is, the hunting hypothesis had been proposed before the 1960s, but hadn't caught on. Why? Cartmill starts with ancient Greece and works his way forward in time, looking at how mankind viewed nature and hunting. In particular, he follows how deer are treated as a symbol of nature and hunting. This book covers a lot of bases. Religion, philosophy, history, social trends, literature, art... there's a lot here. As he works his way towards the present, almost an entire chapter is devoted to Bambi - both the Disney film and the original book it was based on. Anthropomorphism and vegetarianism gets mentioned now and again, too.

The end of the book walks a safe middle line, not being either pro- or anti-hunting, but examines the attitudes of both sides of the debate in the framework of the past. I found it was well-written, and although it's doubtful you'd find it in a public library, if you've got an academic library in your area it might be worth a look.


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