Event Title

Hoofed Locusts: John Muir and Mary Austin's Opposing Views of Sheep

Presenter Information

Barbara Nelson

Start Date

21-4-1996 9:00 AM

End Date

21-4-1996 5:00 PM

Description

This paper is an ecocritical comparison of representations of sheep and shepherding in the work of John Muir and Mary Austin. Using Muir's unpublished "Twenty Hill Hollow" journal, his correspondence, and My First Summer in the Sierra, the author compares Muir's early descriptions of sheep behavior, written while he was a shepherd in Yosemite, with comparable accounts written many years later. The author argues that the disparaging descriptions of sheep in My First Summer in the Sierra were prompted by Austin's The Flock (1906), which presents sheep and shepherding as beneficial and romantic. In his own writing, Muir counters Austin's views point for point. During the time both books were published, Yosemite was embroiled in a bitter struggle between those who wanted to preserve the area as a "pleasure ground" and those who wanted to preserve the area as home and range.

Comments

Barbara "Barney" Nelson is a scholar, creative writer, and rancher who teaches environmental literature and the literature of the American west at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. She is the author of a number of books on the west, including The Last Campfire (Texas A&M University Press, 1984) and Voices and Visions of the American West (Texas Monthly Press, 1986).

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

Hoofed Locusts: John Muir and Mary Austin's Opposing Views of Sheep

This paper is an ecocritical comparison of representations of sheep and shepherding in the work of John Muir and Mary Austin. Using Muir's unpublished "Twenty Hill Hollow" journal, his correspondence, and My First Summer in the Sierra, the author compares Muir's early descriptions of sheep behavior, written while he was a shepherd in Yosemite, with comparable accounts written many years later. The author argues that the disparaging descriptions of sheep in My First Summer in the Sierra were prompted by Austin's The Flock (1906), which presents sheep and shepherding as beneficial and romantic. In his own writing, Muir counters Austin's views point for point. During the time both books were published, Yosemite was embroiled in a bitter struggle between those who wanted to preserve the area as a "pleasure ground" and those who wanted to preserve the area as home and range.