FYS 101 L131 & L132: Imagining Wilderness

We will consider how a range of American writers frame human interactions with “Nature,” and explore their various representations of the natural world. How have cultural values shaped conceptions of nature? How has “Wilderness” been imagined? How do authors construct language to shape the way readers think about the environment? What vision do these texts offer about the relationship of individuals to society, and about progress, industrialism, and technology?

As a multi-disciplinary course, we will ask: What occurs when findings from Natural History are combined with notions from Literary Transcendentalism and Romanticism? We will examine Native American stories, early accounts of natural history, diverse representations of flora and fauna, memoirs of the local, essays on urban nature, and narratives of exploration. “Nature Writing,” often combining rhapsody and science, runs the gamut of the scientific, philosophical, psychological, aesthetic, ethical, and spiritual.

We will consider authors such as N. Scott Momaday, Joseph Bruchac, John James Audubon, Meriwether Lewis, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, John Muir, John Burroughs, Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Henry David Thoreau, Terry Tempest Williams, and Ann Zwinger.

We will examine the relationship between human beings and their environments over a range of diverse habitats and places, from deserts to rainforests to Alaska, to dorm rooms and malls and cityscapes. Many species and natural phenomena are represented.