Event Title

Savagism in the Sierra: Native Americans in My First Summer in the Sierra and Mary Austin's The Land of Little Rain

Presenter Information

Mark Schlenz

Start Date

21-4-1996 9:00 AM

End Date

21-4-1996 5:00 PM

Description

"Nothing truly wild is unclean": John Muir's oft-quoted articulation of a wilderness aesthetic attempts sanctification of the natural through a problematically ethnocentric contrast with the "uncleanliness" of the Paiutes he meets and describes in Bloody Canyon and on the shores of Mono Lake. This paper examines the negative stereotyping of Muir's representations of Native Americans and their culture in My First Summer in the Sierra through contrast with the sympathetic portrayals of Indian characters in the work of his less-recognized contemporary, Mary Austin. In The Land of Little Rain Austin develops a wilderness aesthetic and an ethics of human-nature interaction derived from her studied observation and deep appreciation of native cultures. This paper develops a study of contrasting representations of Native Americans in the nature writing of Muir and Austin as a critical context to consider social, political, cultural, and multicultural implications of their respective environmental aesthetics and ethics.

Comments

Mark Schlenz teaches American literature and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he completed his Ph.D. in English in 1994. A member of the Executive Council of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, he is the author of a number of books about Muir's home territory, including Exploring the Eastern Sierra: California and Nevada (Companion Press, 1990) and Mono Lake: Mirror of Imagination (Companion Press, forthcoming 1996).

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Apr 21st, 9:00 AM Apr 21st, 5:00 PM

Savagism in the Sierra: Native Americans in My First Summer in the Sierra and Mary Austin's The Land of Little Rain

"Nothing truly wild is unclean": John Muir's oft-quoted articulation of a wilderness aesthetic attempts sanctification of the natural through a problematically ethnocentric contrast with the "uncleanliness" of the Paiutes he meets and describes in Bloody Canyon and on the shores of Mono Lake. This paper examines the negative stereotyping of Muir's representations of Native Americans and their culture in My First Summer in the Sierra through contrast with the sympathetic portrayals of Indian characters in the work of his less-recognized contemporary, Mary Austin. In The Land of Little Rain Austin develops a wilderness aesthetic and an ethics of human-nature interaction derived from her studied observation and deep appreciation of native cultures. This paper develops a study of contrasting representations of Native Americans in the nature writing of Muir and Austin as a critical context to consider social, political, cultural, and multicultural implications of their respective environmental aesthetics and ethics.