Associate Professor Douglas Reichert Powell's New Book 'Endless Caverns' to Release April 23
English and Creative Writing Associate Professor Douglas Reichert Powell’s newest book, Endless Caverns: An Underground Journey into the Show Caves of Appalachia, will be published April 23 by the University of North Carolina Press.
Reichert Powell, also the author of Critical Regionalism: Connecting Politics and Culture in the American Landscape, often uses his work to focus on how people relate to their surrounding landscapes. “I found myself wondering, ‘What’s the most place-specific form of expression?’ One answer I came up with was the commercial cavern, or ‘show cave’ as it’s called in the trade: a combination of lighting and landscaping and narrative that you can’t move one inch," he says. "Show caves can only happen only where they are.”
With a Columbia faculty development grant, Reichert Powell was able to begin his research into the caves of Appalachia. “I realized two things: first, that there’s a whole network of show caves in the Appalachian Mountains, three dozen or more all related by history and culture as well as geology and geography. And second, nobody’s written a book about them.”
Reichert Powell wanted to be that somebody. After years spent reading, writing, and traveling, as well as conducting interviews and sifting through archives, he writes that “it is tremendously rewarding to see it between covers, especially with Austin Irving’s spectacular photograph of Shenandoah Caverns on the cover.”
With Endless Caverns, the associate professor hopes to not only explore the relationships between humans and their environments—and how that affects their role in the world—but also to showcase the endurance of Appalachia. “These show caves show the persistence of creativity and the complexity of joy in a place widely known these days as a landscape of despair.”
Endless Caverns can be purchased from the University of North Carolina Press.