Cave: Nature and Culture

Author(s): Ralph Crane; Lisa Fletcher

Reaktion Books | No Category

Shortlisted for the Tratman Award 2015
To enter caves is to venture beyond the realm of the everyday. From huge vaulted caverns to impassable, water-filled passages; from the karst topography of Guilin in China to the lava tubes of Hawaii; from tiny remote pilgrimage sites to massive tourism enterprises, caves are places of mystery. Dark spaces that remain largely unexplored, caves are astonishing wonders of nature and habitats for exotic flora and fauna.
This book investigates the natural and cultural history of caves and considers the roles caves have played in the human imagination and experience of the natural world. It explores the long history of the human fascination with caves, across countries and continents, examining their dual role as spaces of both wonder and fear. It tells the tales of the adventurers who pioneered the science of caves and those of the explorers and cave-divers still searching for new, unmapped routes deep into the earth. This book explores the lure of the subterranean world by examining caving and cave tourism and by looking to the mythology, literature, and art of caves. This lavishly illustrated book will appeal to general readers and experts alike interested in the ecology and use of caves, or the extraordinary artistic responses earth s dark recesses have evoked over the centuries."


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“What is it about caves? An irresistibly enchanting hidey-hole to any small child and yet the birthplace of our deepest fears. Dragons, narguns, goblins, and gorgons are all born of caves, and yet who can go past an opening in the rock without peeking in? We cannot resist exploring this underworld of darkness which seems to provide safety from the perils outside, while at the same time exposing ourselves to the risks and dangers of the unknown and the unseen. 

Ralph Crane and Lisa Fletcher, both literary academics from the University of Tasmania, offer not so much an exploration of caves themselves, but rather an exploration of the ways in which we experience caves. This is, quite literally, an anthropomorphic venture. As the authors point out, we define caves largely through the human experience of them.A cave without an entrance is not a cave at all, but a vug. A ‘proper cave’, apparently, has an entrance at least 0.3 metres high, accessible by a human body. 

Caves are, literally and figuratively, the gaps and fissures between the bedrock of our knowledge. They are spaces that open up beneath our feet and between the disciplines. The archaeologist will illuminate an entirely different vision of a cave from that of the geologist, the palaeontologist, the hydrologist, the biologist, the poet, the novelist, the film-maker, the artist, or the musician. The catch-all designation of ‘speleologist’ is not so much an academic field as a passion – a term for the adventurous explorers of these spaces who may well also be any one of the above specialists as well”

Danielle Clode – Australian Book Review    (JC BookGrocer)

Ralph Crane is Professor of English at the University of Tasmania, Australia. He has written and edited numerous books on colonial and postcolonial fictions. Lisa Fletcher is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Tasmania, Australia. She has published widely on literature and the environment.

General Fields

  • : 9781780234311
  • : Reaktion Books, Limited
  • : Reaktion Books, Limited
  • : 0.617
  • : July 2015
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Ralph Crane; Lisa Fletcher
  • : Paperback
  • : 224