FT 05-S Into the Wild: American Writers on Wilderness
Marc Hudson, Department of English
In the wilderness, travelers encounter the unexpected—new species of animals and trees, new species of thought, new possibilities. The wilderness is other— that “other civilization” opposite to the human, as Thoreau thought of it. After a sojourn there, the traveler returns to the human city transformed, perhaps a little more thoughtful. In this tutorial, students will read some of the literature of the American wilderness—some Thoreau, Muir, and Leopold, but mostly late twentieth century writings such as Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, and Seth Kantner’s Ordinary Wolves. We will also read Roderick Nash’s study of the development of American attitudes toward the wilderness, Wilderness and the American Mind. In these and other texts, students will explore the many meanings Americans writers have attached to wilderness and the sorts of encounters that have occurred there. Class activities will include short papers, a group investigation of some wilderness issue, and a creative project. The course will include a couple of trips into the wild—or, at least, our local Indiana version thereof—Shades State Park.