On Thursday, Oct. 25, Dr. David Schuyler held a lecture in the Nelly Golletti Theatre to discuss his most recent book, "Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909." Schuyler was the inaugural speaker in the Handel-Krom Lecture Series in Hudson River Valley History, a series made possible by Bernard and Shirley Handel and LTC Gilbert A. Krom, U.S. Army, Ret. The lecture was hosted by the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College.
Schuyler is the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of the Humanities and Professor of American Studies at Franklin & Marshall College, and also a Newburgh native.
The title of his book, "Sanctified Landscape," is a reference to a line by Thomas Cole in his "Essay on American Scenery": "The great struggle for freedom has sanctified many a spot, and many a mountain, stream, and rock has its legend, worthy of poet's pen or the painter's pencil."
Schuyler said that he wanted his book to be unique, highlighting the "fine arts, literature, and historical memory" associated with the Hudson Valley region. He discussed the work of various authors and artists and their ability to foster an appreciation for the landscape that contributed to the development of a national identity.
Schuyler began with Washington Irving and his role in developing the Hudson River Valley. Irving "gave the Hudson Valley a folklore and history" through his works, said Schuyler, and was "said to have 'discovered' the river," establishing its status as an iconic image of America.
Schuyler also spoke with admiration of Thomas Cole and his progressive environmentalism in the nineteenth century. Cole was able to portray the beauty of the region through his paintings, while at the same time bringing awareness to the destruction that was taking place in an era of industrialization.
"People loved his paintings, but they didn't heed his lessons," Schuyler said of Cole's call for preservation of the landscape.
The industrialization of the nineteenth century caused a needless destruction of landscape and history that regrettably continues today. Schuyler laments the loss of structures in the Hudson River Valley that were significant to the American Revolution, and the lack of appreciation for the history of the region that has led to such neglect.
Fortunately, some efforts have been made to preserve these sites. The Hasbrouck House, in Newburgh, N.Y., was the country's first building to be preserved for its historic significance. The house and its surrounding buildings served as George Washington's headquarters during the Revolution.
Schuyler hopes that the "tearing down of the legacy of the historic structures" will finally be replaced with the greater sense of national identity that the buildings and landscapes have provided throughout history.
This sense of appreciation can begin right here at Marist College.
While several Hudson River Valley Studies courses are offered at Marist, most students are unaware that these classes are available or that the college even has a minor in Hudson River Valley Regional Studies.
Students should be required to take at least one of these Hudson River Valley Studies courses in literature, history, or environmental studies, and should take the chance to explore the landscape in order to fully comprehend the grandeur of the region.
"I just hope that the students appreciate and realize the opportunity that Marist College offers and that this region offers, in terms of history and beauty," Schuyler said.