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Reconnecting with John Muir

Essays in Post-Pastoral Practice

Terry Gifford

Publication Year: 2006

Advancing for the first time the concept of "post-pastoral practice," Reconnecting with John Muir springs from Terry Gifford's understanding of the great naturalist as an exemplar of integrated, environmentally conscious knowing and writing. Just as the discourses of science and the arts were closer in Muir's day--in part, arguably, because of Muir--it is time we learned from ecology to recognize how integrated our own lives are as readers, students, scholars, teachers, and writers.

When we defy the institutional separations, purposely straying from narrow career tracks, the activities of reading, scholarship, teaching, and writing can inform each other in a holistic "post-pastoral" professional practice. Healing the separations of culture and nature represents the next way forward from the current crossroads in the now established field of ecocriticism.

The mountain environment provides a common ground for the diverse modes of engagement and mediation Gifford discusses. By attempting to understand the meaning of Muir's assertion that "going to the mountains is going home," Gifford points us toward a practice of integrated reading, scholarship, teaching, and writing that is adequate to our environmental crisis.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

This book has had a long evolution since editor and poet Barbara Ras first challenged me to write it for the University of Georgia Press during a Community and Environment conference at the University of Nevada, Reno. I hope the environments that inspired it are sufficiently acknowledged in the text, but there is a wonderful community of friends and scholars to thank ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM LAKE TENAYA

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1. Keeping Faith with the Source

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pp. 3-16

Our postmodern age encourages each of us to think of multiple selves acting in different contexts—at home, at work, at leisure—negotiating positions on the dilemmas we face and the decisions we make, not with a coherent ideology, philosophy, or worldview, but with improvised versions of provisional positions. When we speak in this age, we apparently ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM THE RIM OF NEVADA FALLS

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2. Muir as Practitioner of the Post-Pastoral

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pp. 19-36

On a May morning in 1903 two men pose for a photograph at Glacier Point above Yosemite Valley in the heart of the Sierra Nevada of California. They have slept the night in the open and have woken under a blanket of four inches of snow. Down in the valley a banquet is being prepared for them, together with fireworks and a light show to be projected onto the ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM MONO LAKE

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3. Muir's Multiple Discourses

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pp. 39-54

"The book you speak of is not commenced yet, but I must go into winter quarters at once and go to work" (Badè 1924; LL 219). Muir wrote this letter from Yosemite on 2 November 1875, during the first winter snowfall, which suggests that he was already late to be able to retreat to the Bay area and write a book. It was to be almost twenty more years before his first book was ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM LAKE TAHOE

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4. Teaching Environmentalism through Writing

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pp. 57-72

This book has been arguing for the cross-fertilization of scholarship, criticism, teaching, and creativity toward the study and, indeed, the creation of a post-pastoral literature. It follows that teachers of creative writing who also have an interest in ecocriticism might explore some possibilities and challenges that post-pastoral ecocriticism might offer to pedagogy. In particular ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM THE TRAIL TO MIRROR LAKE

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5. Muir's Mode of Reading John Ruskin

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pp. 75-86

Over twenty-five years ago Donald Westling published an important essay on John Muir's distinctively American form of Ruskinian prose. He suggested that "Muir took his premise and method from Ruskin, sharing with the English writer a hope that, even in a technological culture, an implicative description might relate our sense of fact to our sense of value" ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM CAMP FOUR

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6. Rick Bass's Fiber as a Post-Pastoral Georgic

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pp. 89-102

In chapter 3 Muir's preference for the essay was seen as the most appropriate form for his purposes, although he knew that books would also be needed. Of course, his essays emerged from letters and journals, just as his books emerged from his essays. Muir's play with forms, and with discourses within those forms, resulted from his facing the challenge of mediating ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM TUOLUMNE MEADOWS

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7. Walking into Narrative Scholarship

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pp. 105-118

Muir's sense of himself as a mountaineer was present even during his reading of the works of others. The development of his own thinking and writing about his experience as a mountaineer, and, indeed, his personal conception of a mountaineer, was informed by his mode of reading. Reference was made in chapter 5 to the seventy-five largely literary books from ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM FAIRVIEW DOME

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8. Teaching Post-Pastoral Poetry of Landscape

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pp. 121-130

The fundamental basis of narrative scholarship is that direct experience of a landscape, like walking through it, is mediated through reading and reflection. The examples discussed in chapter 7 concerned prose writers. Here I extend that discussion into a pedagogical challenge for the poet and ecocritic who is a teacher of the writing of poetry. For such a person the development ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM MOUNT HOFFMAN

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9. Tests of Character in Cold Mountain

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pp. 133-140

When, as mentioned in chapter 5, John Muir wrote in 1873 thanking the Oakland schoolmaster John McChesney for the gift of the works of John Ruskin, he must have known that he had in his hands books that would inform his reading of all other books henceforth (Badè 1924; LL 186). Indeed, as I have shown in chapter 5, Muir went on to read Ruskin's works at...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM CATHEDRAL PEAK

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10. Muir's Fourfold Concept of the Mountaineer

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pp. 143-152

"I am hopelessly and forever a mountaineer," John Muir wrote to Jeanne Carr from Yosemite Valley in October 1874. "I expected to have been among the foothill drift long ago," he wrote, "but the mountains fairly seized me" (Badè 1924; LL 207). Muir always referred to himself as "a mountaineer," but what he meant by this is more complex than our modern use of the ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM GLACIER POINT APRON

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11. Toward a Post-Pastoral Mountaineering Literature

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pp. 155-168

I have emphasized that John Muir did not write his first book, The Mountains of California, until he was fifty-five and that he began his career as a writer by writing for the magazines of his day. In drawing attention to the fact that Muir's books largely consist of a patchwork of articles drawn from notebooks, journals, and letters to friends, I have suggested, in chapter 3, ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM THE ROYAL ARCHES

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12. Post-Pastoral Practice at the Crossroads of Ecocriticism

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pp. 171-176

In his recent review of ecocriticism Michael Cohen suggests that a number of debates and critiques within ecocriticism have brought the emergent discipline to a crossroads (Cohen 2004). He identifies questions about rural and urban nature, wilderness and environmental justice, ecocentrism and anthropocentrism, nature writing and Environmental Impact Statements, ...

TO JOHN MUIR FROM HALF DOME

Appendix A. Introducing Ecocriticism into the University Curriculum

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pp. 179-180

Appendix B. Twenty-five Kinds of Post-Pastoral Landscape Poem

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pp. 181-182

Appendix C. Advice for New Writers Targeting Outdoor Magazines

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pp. 183-186

Bibliography

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pp. 187-194

Index

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pp. 195-201


E-ISBN-13: 9780820336657
E-ISBN-10: 0820336653
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820327969
Print-ISBN-10: 0820327964

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Environmentalism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Muir, John, 1838-1914 -- Appreciation -- United States.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Nature in literature.
  • Ecocriticism.
  • Mountaineering in literature.
  • Muir, John, 1838-1914 -- Influence.
  • Pastoral literature, American -- History and criticism.
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