American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

ALONGSHORE (1994). Alongshore offers a thought-provoking and informative examination of an aspect of the sea that typically goes unnoticed in literature: the littoral. This coast, which establishes the border of every league of pounding surf, every harbor, embayment, estuary, and marsh, is a vital part of the sea itself. Alongshore considers the many faces of the landscape and seascape along the shore and their place within American culture.

Author John R. Stilgoe (1949- ) is a professor of the history of landscape at Harvard University. His previous books have offered important observations on elements of the American scene, such as suburbs and railroads, and their interaction with the natural world. Much of the value of Alongshore draws from the interplay between historical analysis and Stilgoe’s personal observations. A resident of Norwell, Massachusetts, Stilgoe has spent innumerable hours exploring his section of the Massachusetts shore in small boats. He brings to this work both the enthusiasm of the youthful explorer and the considered reflections of the senior scholar.

Chapters with intriguing titles such as “Glim,” “Guzzle,” “Treasure,” “Quaintness,” and “Bikinis” examine both physical settings and the use of language as a reflection of American culture and its changing relations with the littoral boundary. Stilgoe’s personal observations of salt creeks and marshes authenticate his presentation. He also draws on a variety of literary and historical sources, including John Milton, Henry David Thoreau,* and Herman Melville,* as well as late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century popular imprints, serials, guides, and manuals.

Glenn S. Gordinier