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The Romance of Reinhabitation: Jack London and Knut Hamsun

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Chapter Summary

In this essay, I use two popular early 20th-century novels – Jack London’s The Valley of the Moon (1913) and Knut Hamsun’s The Growth of the Soil (1917) to consider critically the concept of “reinhabitation,” which has long been prominent in contemporary environmentalist discourses. Figuring characters whom depart the industrial city and embrace agricultural work in search of more humanly enjoyable and ecologically sustainable ways of life, these fictions resonate with contemporary calls for a human reorientation to the land. At the same time, however, London and Hamsun’s novels also alert us to the difficulties, contradictions and potential risks involved in the attempt to define precisely what it means to “reinhabit” the earth.



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