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Academic Bulletin Freshman Tutorials - 2009-10 - 9 FT 9

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FT 09-K Into The Wild: American Writers on Wilderness

The encounter with wilderness helped forge the character of American culture. Since that first raw contact with the wild at Jamestown and Plymouth, our national attitude toward wilderness has changed radically. Instead of being perceived as an alien place that endangers both body and soul, wilderness is now perceived by most Americans as a place of refuge and renewal.
In this tutorial, we will read several texts that reflect the American encounter with the wilderness. We’ll explore these texts and the many questions they raise, questions such as: What is our idea of wilderness today and what is its value to us as individuals and members of a highly technological society? What insights occur to us in the wilderness? Does a wilderness experience change us in some way? If, as Thoreau writes, “in wildness is the preservation of the world,” how can we preserve wilderness when its preservation runs counter to the dominant values of our society? If we do value wilderness, how do we live our lives—individually and collectively as a society—in ways which allow us to draw strength from the gifts of wilderness as well as allow others to enjoy those gifts?
You will reflect on these and other questions in several papers and in the day-to-day class discussions. You will also do some exploring in the field, and some “wildwriting” of your own as you explore the forested ridges and valleys of Shades State Park in a couple of trips. We will together engage in a collaborative project researching the human and natural histories of nearby Shades State Park.
The goals of this course are to make you more active and capable critical readers of both literary and scholarly texts; to develop your skills as writers and thinkers; to improve your discussion skills; to deepen and enrich your understanding of the idea of the wilderness and its relationship to our American culture; to introduce you to some classics of American nature writing; and to learn a bit more about the natural world.

Hudson, Marcus A.
Credits: 1