Call for Papers

The Call of the Wild: Writing and Walking in American Landscapes

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting 2017

Organiser: Dave McLaughlin (University of Cambridge)

Abstract Deadline: October 25th

The past decade has seen a lively debate over the terms of so-called ‘new nature writing’: a debate into which geographers are well placed to engaged. In Britain, in particular, through the work of Robert Macfarlane (2012), of Philip Marsden (2014), of Tim Dee (2008), writers and academics have sought to find new, personal and literary engagements between the landscapes and literature, between what Jonathan Bate (2000) called nature and culture. Behind these popular writers, academics have followed suit. Conferences have been held and journal special issues convened, looking at the phenomenon across scales from nation to locality; and across forms from prose to film to art.

America has a deep history of critical and cultural engagements with wild places – from Bartram, Emerson and Thoreau through to more recent works featuring Chris McCandless and Cheryl Strayed. Much of this American tradition emphasises a connection to place brought about by walking and motion. Yet, works like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (2012) have been criticised by commentators as bringing about the decline of nature writing as a genre in America, due to their overemphasis on the personal in these journeys.

From this on-going debate, this panel asks what can American voices reveal about this new turn in geography and literature, in nature and culture? In the light of recent advances in geohumanities, how should cultural geographers engage with these popular, literary, geographical works?

Suggested topics for papers include, but are not limited to:

  • Personal responses to the American landscape
  • Walking and writing in non-urban settings
  • Autobiography, memoir and nature writing
  • Artificial American wilds
  • American ‘New’ Nature Writing
  • The Nature/Culture divide
  • Histories of American contact with ‘wild’ places
  • Artistic and creative responses to American wilds
  • Cultural geographies of literature and the world

To participate in this session, please send an abstract (250 words maximum) to Dave McLaughlin ( by October 25th.

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