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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Fall 2009

AMS 311s • Wilderness in American Culture-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29860 M
4:00 PM-7:00 PM
ben 1.126

Course Description

From clear-cutting in old growth forests to backcountry camping in isolated mountain ranges, Americans have imagined and interacted with "wilderness" in multiple ways—as a howling desert, a source of lumber and valuable minerals, a sublime expression of divinity, a recreational asset, and an antidote to “civilization.” This course examines social, political, economic, environmental, and cultural trends that affect ideas and practices connected to wilderness in the United States. Specific themes include: • Human values and religious significance assigned to wilderness • Intersections between wilderness and national identity • Gendered connotations in constructions of wilderness • Federal policies affecting humans, flora, fauna, and public lands • Environmental and social implications of outdoor recreation • Contemporary controversies over wilderness—i.e. oil drilling, snowmobiling, eco-terrorism

By the end of this course, students will be able to: • Compare and contrast social constructions of wilderness in the United States. • Evaluate the legacy of major historical figures on attitudes toward wilderness. • Analyze representations of wilderness in primary sources like newspapers, paintings, sculpture, photography, music, film, television, movies, advertisements, and web sites. • Apply historical knowledge about wilderness to critical analyses of contemporary issues.

Grading Policy

Attendance and response papers: 20% Two take-home papers: 40% Final research paper: 40%


Course packet Edward Abbey. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness


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