John Muir Wilderness Essays

John Muir Wilderness Essays-29
Sometimes he would sit for hours on a granite overlook, sketching or journaling, until he became rapt in communion with the As the years passed Muir became more and more a man of the wild, his hair unkempt, his eyes rapt with an intensity that made him appear to the tourists he met as more Old Testament prophet than naturalist.

Sometimes he would sit for hours on a granite overlook, sketching or journaling, until he became rapt in communion with the As the years passed Muir became more and more a man of the wild, his hair unkempt, his eyes rapt with an intensity that made him appear to the tourists he met as more Old Testament prophet than naturalist.

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Wherever possible, we have cited the original publisher and publication date; readers should look for recent editions, be they print or online.

Erik Hage is the chair of the department of liberal studies at the State University of New York at Cobleskill and an associate professor of journalism, communication, and English.

These works look not just at the notion of a once-pervasive US wilderness, which now exists largely in the federally protected remnants of the National Park System, but also at the philosophical foundations of the “wilderness” concept and the evolution of a land ethic—conservation and preservation ideals—and how earlier writers contributed to this.

A word about the works cited: many of the older titles discussed here have appeared in numerous editions since their original publication.

Reflecting on attitudes about the US’s most natural and wildest spaces, these works have contributed to views on conservation and preservation and to the place of humans in the natural environment.

As an interdisciplinary form, wilderness writing is a form of nonfiction prose that merges emotion with empirical observation and that intertwines strands such as literature, science, natural history, philosophy, and theology with little regard for the lines and distinctions between those disciplines.

Publications about the US wilderness stretch back to earliest English Colonial contact with the New World.

This literature evolved through Henry David Thoreau’s , the writings of Thoreau’s philosophical descendent John Muir, and the work of a host of men and women in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

His forefinger traced an arc through the deep South of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, and finally pausing along the Florida Gulf coast a thousand miles away. A lover of wild nature, Muir had long fantasized about visiting Florida, the A self-taught mechanical genius and trained botanist, Muir had been offered a lucrative partnership in an Indianapolis machine works and had been tempted to accept it, but at the risk of abandoning his lifelong dream of exploring the wilds of the Southern hemisphere.

Only the clarity drawn from an accident six months earlier that had nearly blinded him had given him the resolve to abandon convention, renounce the prospect of wealth and success, and go into the American wilderness. Along with his plant press, he took with him a botany text, Milton's 'Paradise Lost', a Bible, and a journal that would serve both as field log for botanical observations and a record of his immersion in a While Muir took immense delight in the natural beauty he found in the untamed wilds he passed through on his way to Florida, he was unprepared for the darkness, social isolation and outright enmity he experienced as a northerner passing through the landscapes of the deep South two years after the end of the Civil War-including walking inadvertently along the actual route taken by General William Sherman on his scorched-earth campaign through the Georgia heartland.

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