American Wilderness

Professor: Paul Lask
Institution: Portland State University
Course Number: WR323

American Wilderness


There is a long history of competing narratives to define what the American wilderness is. Though conceptions of wilderness have changed over time, themes recur. It is still a place that is feared and romanticized. It is still identified as a source of purity. Conservation efforts continually come in conflict with those of preservationists, who believe large swaths of land need to remain “untouched.”

We will read and respond to a variety of texts— literary, historical and legal— as well as film and paintings, to get at what wilderness is, keeping in mind the rhetorical methods being used. We will put together daily presentations, blog posts and three essays that will critically examine primary and secondary sources. With wilderness as a lens I hope to get at issues of displacement, industrialization, environmental equity and sustainability.

Full Syllabus: ASLE_Syllabi_AmWild_Lask