Woods and forests have long been seen as places of both beauty and danger, of both charm and threat. Dark woods, in particular, have often been treated as symbols of vulnerability, especially when they are imagined as inhabited by wild animals so that they become literal wildernesses—wild places—in which people can easily lose their way and face general insecurity and specific forms of menace.
Sometimes, as in Shakespeare’s As You Like It or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, entry into a forest can result in positive, even magical, outcomes. But sometimes, as in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, entering a forest can suggest alienation, loneliness, and potential despair. This volume, then, explores the theme of journeying Into the Woods by interpreting the topic broadly and sometimes metaphorically. Works relevant to this theme might include Dante’s Inferno, Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” the famous film The Wizard of Oz, Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring novels, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, as well as Jon Krakauer’s noted work of nonfiction, Into the Wild.
In the final section, Resources, a select bibliography of additional works that are pertinent to the theme is provided. Each essay in Critical Insights: Going Into the Woods includes a list of Works Cited and detailed endnotes. Also included in this volume is a Bibliography, biographies of the Editor and Contributors, and an alphabetical Index.