Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content

First-Year Writing Seminar: Wilderness and Civilization

Semester and Year FA 2017
Course Number FIRST-UG357
Section 001
Instructor Andrew Libby
Days MW
Time 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


In this seminar we will study a sampling of texts from various fields that deal with the tension between wilderness and civilization and the identities it enables. We will consider how the concept of wilderness sometimes doubles for that of nature in forming a dynamic identity we call “civilized.” Our studies will draw on insights from biology, ecology, anthropology, political theory, and literature. We will attempt to respond to such questions as: If wilderness is nature without humans, why are we so irresistibly drawn to it? What function does wilderness serve in our civilized lives? How has it become necessary to our imaginative, spiritual, and political lives? What does an investigation of “wilderness,” “nature,” and “civilization” allow us to express about the world we inhabit? What are the limits of these concepts—what possibilities do they disallow? We will examine these concepts in terms of how they work to create identity for humans, what ways of life they offer, what they obscure. And we’ll look closely at related concepts that structure our sense of ourselves, sometimes without our being wholly conscious of it: What does it mean to be natural, or live a natural lifestyle? Should social organizations follow nature, be “organic,” or go in a different direction? How natural is sex? gender? class? race and ethnicity? How does what we consider “natural” and “unnatural” affect the lifestyle options available to us? Our goal in this seminar is to think through these and related issues and to develop language that enables us to imagine viable alternative futures.


All Syllabi

Course Type

First-Year Program: Writing Seminars (FIRST-UG)