Back in the day
My research and writing have gone off in a variety of directions since those early days of post-Ph.D. earnestness. Picking my way through the fields of Environmental History and Ecocriticism I have developed a wide-ranging interest in the intersection of nature and culture: How have our ideas about "nature" and "wilderness" been shaped? How do we know what to look for, and what not to look for, in a "natural landscape"? How have these ideas influenced our actions toward "nature" and our reactions to various environmental "problems"? I have explored these and other questions through my own experiences—what am I looking for when I go for a hike in the woods? when I visit a National Park? when I take a picture of the landscape?—and through the rich history of literary and artistic representations of the natural world.
Below are links to some of the essays I have published and to the journals where they appeared. In each case I hold the copyright to the work or have secured the publisher's permission to reproduce it here. This work certainly has not changed the world, or even dented it in any perceptible way, but it does, I hope, represent my efforts to put into practice what I attempt to model in the classroom. Material will be added as it becomes available. Feedback and criticism are welcome.
"Stiff Necks and Broken Spines" This nostalgic stroll through New York City's world of used bookstores was originally a kind of tribute to my father. Now that he has passed on it stands as something of a memorial as well. I am glad I got it out there while he was still around. It was published in The Bloomsbury Review (November/December, 2002).
"Zoom Lens" My first foray into what they call "creative nonfiction" (known in the old days as "the personal essay.") It is about zoos and cameras and Yellowstone National Park and how we see or fail to see. There is also a snake. It was published in Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing 3.1 (Spring-Summer, 2005).
"Confessions of a Vicarious Backpacker" For years I had been reading and teaching about the wonders to be experienced on solo forays into the wilderness. Here is an account of my first effort to experience those wonders for myself, a backpacking trip with the LL Bean catalogue and a copy of Nature Writing's Greatest Hits as my only guides. Published in ISLE 10.1 (Winter 2003).
"Huck Finn, Hank Morgan, and the Puritan Dilemma" No, I did not have to publish an essay on Mark Twain in order to get tenure, but I published one anyway. A consideration of how two of Twain's novels wrestle with a fundamental dilemma: how to live in a world gone wrong without succumbing to the Scylla of arrogant self-righteousness or the Charybdis of world-weary isolationism. Published in The McNeese Review 40, 2002.
"Ruins" A rather personal reflection on the things we leave behind, and the things we don't. Inspired by a trek through Anasazi ruins in Grand Gulch, Utah. Published in Whole Terrain volume 11 (2002-03), Gratitude and Greed.
"Teaching the Desert: The Literature of Landscape, in and out of Place" This appeared as a chapter in a book collection of essays on teaching environmental literature and studies in the field, edited by Hal Crimmel and published by the University of Utah Press in 2003. The other essays in the book, Teaching in the Field: Working with Students in the Outdoor Classroom, are well worth the price of admission. My contribution starts with the challenges I faced trying to teach New England seasonal literature to high school students in Hawaii and goes on to explore the Spring Term travel classes I have taught in the American Southwest.
"Reclaiming the Sacred Landscape: Terry Tempest Williams, Kathleen Norris, and the Other Nature Writing" This was born as a conference paper, presented back in the good old days when my friend Michael Kiskis was still organizing academic junkets to places like Cancun, Mexico. It evolved into this essay, published in the journal Women's Studies in March, 2003 (vol. 32, no. 2). The essay is not as stiff as the title suggests, I hope.
"The Bard's Bird, or, The Slings and Arrows of Avicultural Hegemony: A Tragicomedy in Five Acts" How did a misplaced vogue for Shakespeare give us the starling, an "invasive species" that makes up over 80% of the "nuisance animals" dispatched annually by the USDA? Read this and you will find out. Published in the beautiful journal Terrain.org in October, 2010 and then republished in Trash Animals edited by Kelsi Nagy and Phillip David Johnson and published by University of Minnesota Press in 2013.
What I am working on now
Under construction. Yes, I know I have been in a slump, or a drought, but much of my effort since 2010 has been dedicated to preparing lectures for my role as a Speaker in the Humanities and undertaking a major do-it-yourself education in art history and visual culture studies. Excuses, excuses.
“But the best read naturalist who lends an entire and devout attention to truth, will see that there remains much to learn of his relation to the world, and that it is not to be learned by any addition or subtraction or other comparison of known quantities, but is arrived at by untaught sallies of the spirit, by a continual self-recovery, and by entire humility.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature