March 26-27: Environmental writer explores storytelling

By J. Adrian Aumen, College of Arts & Sciences

Cronon-80PULLMAN, Wash. – William Cronon, one of the country’s foremost environmental writers, thinkers and historians, will be the featured speaker at two free, public events March 26-27 as part of Washington State University’s Visiting Writer Series.

“William Cronon is an exceptional historian who has a scholar’s depth and breadth of knowledge but also a novelist’s skill at telling stories,” said Larry Hufford, director of the School of Biological Sciences and the Charles R. Conner Museum of Natural History at WSU. “His seminal book, “Changes in the Land,” was tremendously influential in shaping the way we think today about wilderness and the pervasiveness of human influence on the American environment.”

Cronon appeared in Ken Burn’s PBS documentary, “National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

He will present “The Portage: Time, Memory and Storytelling in the Making of an American Place” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the CUB auditorium on the WSU Pullman campus. The literary reading and discussion will explore the ways people’s stories about their lives, homes and landscapes shape their sense of place.

He will join an interdisciplinary panel of faculty experts from WSU and the University of Idaho in examining “The Personal Voice of Scholarly Writing” 3:30-5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Whitewater Room, Idaho Commons Student Union, on the UI campus in Moscow.

The panel of published authors and bloggers will discuss the “pros and cons of personal voice in academic writing, interesting experiments and examples of energetic writing within our various fields,” said Debbie Lee, professor of English at WSU and co-coordinator of the writer series. “We’ll focus on ways to infuse personal voice in scholarly literature – in contrast to the typically anonymous, authoritative voice of academic work.”

Panelists from WSU are Mary Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education; Hufford; and Lee. Panelists from UI are Adam Sowards, associate professor and director of the Institute for Pacific Northwest Studies, and English professors Mary Blew and Scott Slovic.

Cronon is the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and past president of the American Historical Association. His book, “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West,” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and awarded the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize and the Bancroft Prize.

Both events are sponsored by the WSU Department of English with support from the Department of History, Conner Museum, Office of Undergraduate Education and CEREO (Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach). Additional support is from UI’s Department of English, Department of History and Program in Northwest Studies.

Find more about these final events in the 2013-14 Visiting Writer Series at WSU at

More about the featured author

William Cronon earned doctoral degrees from both Yale University and Oxford University. He was a Rhodes scholar and has held fellowships through the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Guggenheim and Danforth foundations.

Renowned in the fields of historical and environmental geography, Cronon is a “citizen-scholar” who makes his research publicly available. His work focuses primarily on American environmental history and the history of the American West, illuminating the history of human interactions with the natural world. He has authored and co-edited numerous books and other publications.



Debbie Lee, WSU professor of English,, 509-335-6812

Adrian Aumen, communications, WSU College of Arts and Sciences,, 509-335-5671