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Joseph Wood Krutch

Joseph Wood Krutch
Joseph Wood Krutch.jpg
Born(1893-11-25)November 25, 1893
DiedMay 22, 1970(1970-05-22) (aged 76)
EducationColumbia University
OccupationWriter, Critic, Naturalist

Joseph Wood Krutch (/kr/;[1] November 25, 1893 – May 22, 1970) was an American writer, critic, and naturalist, best known for his nature books on the American Southwest and as a critic of reductionistic science.[further explanation needed]


Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, he was educated at the University of Tennessee and received a Ph.D. in English literature from Columbia University. After serving in the army in 1918, he traveled in Europe for a year with friend Mark Van Doren. After the war, he taught English composition at Brooklyn Polytechnic.[2]:118

In 1924, Krutch became theater critic for The Nation, a position he held until 1952.[2]:131 As an author, Krutch first achieved prominence when he published The Modern Temper in 1929. There he challenged then-fashionable notions of scientific progress and optimism, arguing that science leads logically to a bleak view of the human condition.[2]:319 In the 1940s he wrote widely read biographies of Samuel Johnson and Henry David Thoreau and—largely inspired by Thoreau—published his first nature book, The Twelve Seasons (1949).

From 1937 to 1952 he served as a professor of English at Columbia University, where he was a popular lecturer. In 1955, Krutch won the National Book Award for The Measure of Man (1954). In that work, he partially retreated from the gloomy pessimism of his early years and argued that there are aspects of human beings, such as reason, consciousness, free will, and moral judgment, that cannot be explained by mechanistic, deterministic science.[2]:321–326

After moving to Tucson, Arizona in 1952, partly for reasons of health, Krutch wrote several books about natural issues of ecology, the southwestern desert environment, and the natural history of the Grand Canyon, winning renown as a naturalist, nature writer, and an early conservationist. Like Aldo Leopold, who greatly influenced him, Krutch believed that human beings must move beyond purely human centered conceptions of "conservation" and learn to value nature for its own sake.[3]


Krutch died in Tucson, Arizona at age 76 from colon cancer in 1970. One of the last interviews with Krutch before his death was conducted by Edward Abbey and appears in Abbey's 1988 book, One Life at a Time, Please (ISBN 0-8050-0603-6).


Many of Krutch's manuscripts and typescripts are held by the University of Arizona, where the Joseph Wood Krutch Cactus Garden was named in his honor in 1980.[4] Upon his death, The New York Times lauded Krutch in an editorial, declaring that concern for the environment by many young Americans "should turn a generation unfamiliar with Joseph Wood Krutch to a reading of his books with delight to themselves and profit to the world."[5]

Selected works

  • Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius (1926)
  • The Modern Temper (1929)
  • Experience and Art: Some Aspects of the Esthetics of Literature (1932)
  • Samuel Johnson (1944)
  • Henry David Thoreau (1948)
  • The Twelve Seasons (1949)
  • The Desert Year (1951)
  • The Best of Two Worlds (1953)
  • The Measure of Man (1954)
  • The Voice of the Desert (1954)
  • The Great Chain of Life (1956)
  • The Grand Canyon: Today and All Its Yesterdays (1957)
  • "The sportsman or the predator? A damnable pleasure" The Saturday Review (August 17, 1957): pp. 8–10, 39-40. Concerning "killing for sport."[6][7]
  • Human Nature and the Human Condition (1959)
  • The Forgotten Peninsula (1961)
  • The World of Animals; A treasury of lore and literature by great writers and naturalists from the 5th century B.C. to the present (1961)
  • More Lives Than One (1962)
  • And Even If You Do; Essays on Man, Manners and Machines (1967)
  • The Scarlet Letter Rap (2011)
  • The Best Nature Writing of Joseph Wood Krutch (anthology, University of Utah Press, 1995; ISBN 0-87480-480-9)


  1. ^ "Krutch". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  2. ^ a b c d Joseph Wood Krutch, More Lives than One. New York: William Sloane Associates, 1962.
  3. ^ Joseph Wood Krutch, The Voice of the Desert: A Naturalist's Interpretation. New York: William Sloane Associates, 1954, pp. 186-207.
  4. ^ "The Joseph Wood Krutch Cactus Garden" Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, University of Arizona Alumnus magazine, Spring 2002.
  5. ^ Krutch, The Voice of the Desert, back cover.
  6. ^ Wildlife and People: THE HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF WILDLIFE ECOLOGY - Google Books Result, cited by Gary G. Gray (1995 University of Illinois Press), p. 64. Retrieved 8/4/09.
  7. ^ Article title detail at JSTOR. Found at Google search "a damnable pleasure krutch."

External links

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