America's Writers: Taking Transcendentalism beyond New England
Having visited Walt's beloved home city, New York, and having stood in Brooklyn looking over into Manhattan as he would have so many times, we definitely caught the Whitman bug. From our travels in New England and New York, we branched out in our reading to encompass the entire United States. Walt was right: the United States are the world's greatest poem!
After studying the core Transcendentalists, we plunged into nature writing, environmental writing, and other artistic responses to the United States and its natural beauty. In many ways, these writers and artists inspired us even more than the Transcendentalists themselves.
We looked at the roots of exploration in the United States, considering Lewis and Clark, John Wesley Powell, and several other key figures. From these early nineteenth-century explorers, we delved into the western writers of the late 19th century, writers such as John Muir and Clarence King. Tiffany was inspired to write about King and his discoveries.
As we moved into the twentieth century to consider the rise of environmentalism and the commitment to political activism, we were deeply moved by the pioneering work of Aldo Leopold. Catherine was captivated—from the beginning of the course until the very end—with the life and work of Rachel Carson.
One writer who provided an excellent journaling model for all of us was Annie Dillard. We read portions of her famed book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and had great fun taking on "Dillard perspectives" throughout the semester. Sarah and Catherine especially enjoyed Annie Dillard.
Lizzie was so moved by Terry Tempest
Williams's account of women survivors of breast cancer that she wrote an open
letter to the author. Read
Lizzie's response to "The Clan of One-Breasted Women" (an excerpt
from Williams's classic memoir, Refuge).
"American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide" was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit "About This Site." © 2003 Linda Tate.