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.