MENLO SCHOOL • SINCE 1915

Literature of the American Wilderness (H) (1S)

Biography

Wilderness is, actually, an American invention. It’s a construct, not a fact of nature, but one with enormous consequences for the ways in which we relate to our natural world. The ideas of wilderness and the frontier are in fact so entangled in the American identity that we still cannot relinquish the dream of them, even if the U.S Census declared the frontier “closed” 133 years ago; even if less than 3% of the land in the contiguous United States is today considered “wilderness” at all. In this course, we will use literature to explore America’s relationship with its own geography—how that relationship has changed and how it hasn’t—from the biblical ideas that informed our nation’s founding to the rise of a worldview that could possibly condone something like ecoterrorism. Through an interdisciplinary lens that combines literature, art, history, science and ethics, we will explore the reactions that wilderness has historically elicited, our options for responding to it today, and our own relationships with our uniquely Western environment.

This class is part of the Climate Concentration and counts toward the program’s requirement.