Schwanke Courses and Instructors

National Parks and American Wilderness

Course description: We will begin with the dispossession of Native American lands and then explore the origins of the concept of protected parkland in American landmarks like Niagara Falls and Central Park. As government-sponsored expeditions explored remote mountains in Wyoming and Montana, romantic artists and writers, alongside commercial interests like railroad companies and hotels owners, all worked to promote their visions of wilderness. By the early twentieth century, a newly-founded National Park Service oversaw a growing portfolio of parks that included Yellowstone, Mt. Rainier, Yosemite, and Glacier, among many others. We will explore the debates about preservation and conversation; the 1964 Wilderness Act; and the battle to protect places like Dinosaur and Glen Canyon from development. Throughout the course, we will explore the paradoxical charge of the National Park System to both create access and preserve lands for future generations.

Course instructor: As a Davidson Honors College Teaching, Researching and Mentoring (TRM) Fellow, Rachel Gross has developed and taught new creative courses on topics such as environmental history and consumer culture. She is an environmental and cultural historian who has a passion for culture.