In both The Blackwater Chronicle (1853) and Virginia Canaan (1857), the first-person narrators repeatedly recount their perambulations in the West Virginia wilderness as a process of losing their bearings or finding the limits of certain forms of knowledge about a region or place. For Kennedy, the map coordinates of the Cheat River and Potomac River, respectively, serve as the defining markers for his sojourn into the wilderness. Yet both places do not correspond to the reality his expedition encounters. When, for example, streams are supposed to run a certain direction, they instead go the opposite way, and Kennedy recounts they "now put off farther than ever" (181). In Virginia Canaan, Strother writes of times when the mapped region of the Canaan is incommensurate with the flow of the Cheat River. One traveler has to come to the realization that his map is inadequate and he "must defer to the actuality of the stream" (35). Both of these narratives illustrate what Lawrence Buell, writing in The Future of Environmental Criticism, describes as "two different forms of knowing ... of thinking about cartography" (680). In encountering the "undiscovered" Canaan region—at least in Western thinking and cartography—Kennedy and Strother reveal the limits of such thinking in approximating the real space of the West Virginia wilderness, even with the assistance of local guides who provide an alternate form of knowledge of place to that of Western cartography.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.