Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A10. Into the Wild: Escape and Transcendence

Most Americans pursue “unfiltered experience.” “A yearning for elsewhere, for a life beyond the one we’re leading,” suggests Jonathan Raban, “is universal [but] in the national mythology, it’s the quintessential American experience to arrive in a wild and inhospitable place . . . and make it home.” We are accustomed to seeing such an experience as “sublime,” so much so that perhaps going out into nature has become a commodity, a vacation package. This quest associated with nature has existed since the very beginnings of the American experience as explored by Florence Williams in The Nature Fix, her exploration of neuroscientists’ grapplings about how we are affected by the natural world. We will read and see films based upon Into the Wild and “Brokeback Mountain” as well as the film, “Grizzly Man,” and such novels as The Kite Runner, The Book of Jonah, In the Lake of the Woods, Point Omega, Jazz, and others. Classes involve discussion, student-led panels for each book and film, three papers, and no exams. It will be a sublime experience.

Samuel CoaleSamuel Coale
Professor of English