Disenchanting the “Magical Forest”: Breaking the Nature/Culture Divide

Jo Ann Conrad (Diablo Valley College)

Early 20th century Swedish artist John Bauer’s images of the forest, particularly his trolls, continue to play out in today’s social landscape, performing the work of mystifying the forest, facilitating its exploitation. This paper re-examines Bauer’s work to suggest his images be read as metaphors for the forest’s conquest by industrialization, resource exploitation and settlement, while they serve to distance and distract from the actual violence. Rather than confrontational, how might the human/forest encounter be reimagined to explore potential alternatives that do not depend on the hierarchical Nature/Culture divide? Or are humans doomed to experience the “revenge of the Trolls”?

Part of 26-03 Forest-Lore in the Pyrocene, Tuesday, October 19, 5:15 pm–6:45 pm