The University of Wisconsin Press

Environment / American Studies / Art


Recovering the Prairie
Edited by Robert F. Sayre

Beautifully illustrated celebration of the prairie

"Like a prairie's landscape, these essays, together with the photographs, visual art, and illustrations, present a dense and varied interconnected whole, from roots to flowers to the beings who perceive and inhabit the land."
—Annick Smith, filmmaker and author of Big Bluestem: Journey into the Tall Grass

Americans in ever increasing numbers are rediscovering the prairie. This vast inland sea of grasses, buried for a hundred years beneath farms, cities, and suburbs, has endured not only in physical remnants but also in the memories of its settlers and their descendants, the books of prairie authors, and the work of prairie artists. As restoration ecologists and amateur prairie preservationists recover the land, this book recovers the prairie of the American imagination—past, present, and future.

Beautifully illustrated with the work of sixteen contemporary prairie artists, Recovering the Prairie celebrates and examines the perspectives of artists, writers, native peoples, ecologists, and landscape architects—Willa Cather, Aldo Leopold, Jens Jensen, Alexander Gardner, and many others—who recognized the unique beauty of the prairie. And, this volume brings together people from many fields to consider the connections between aesthetics and economics, landscape and culture, politics and ethics, as illustrated by the prairie in American civilization.

"I do not know of another book that brings together individuals from so many fields to meditate on the prairie landscape, its biota, and its natural and cultural prospects. This impressive and richly illustrated volume will appeal to general readers as well as to scholars interested in literature, history, American studies, art history, geography, landscape, and ecology."
—Wayne Franklin, author of Discoverers, Explorers, Settlers

Contributors and artists include:
Robert Adams, Lee Allen, Roger Brown, James D. Butler, Pauline Drobney, Fred Easker,Terry Evans, Ed Folsom,Lance M. Foster, Harold L. Gregor, Robert E. Grese, Walter Hatke, Harold D. Holoun, Stan Hurd, Gary Irving, Wes Jackson, Keith Jacobshagen, Joni L. Kinsey, Stuart Klipper, Aldo Leopold, Tom Lutz, Curt Meine, Genie H. Patrick, David Plowden, Rebecca Roberts, Robert F. Sayre, Jane E. Simonson, Shelton Stromquist, and James R. Winn.

Robert F. Sayre is professor of English and American literature at the University of Iowa. He is the editor of the anthology American Lives, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and of several other books, including Take This Exit: Re-Discovering the Iowa Landscape.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

November 1999

234 pp.   7 x 9
23 color illus., 61 b/w illus.

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Cloth $37.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-16460-7
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"Prairie enthusiasts will be delighted to read how diverse and interesting the human meanings of the prairie have been. Recovering the Prairie is attractive, accessible, and eloquent."
—Donald Worster, author of Nature's Economy

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