Spornicov, "Forest in the Tatras" 1998

Geography 464/564



Spring 2009

MW 2:00-3:20 Condon 260

Prof. Shaul Cohen
Condon 107G Tel. 346-4500
Office hours Tuesday and Friday 10:00-11:00

GTF Nate Bellinger
Office hours Tuesday 10-12, Columbia 246

Please note:  if there is a warm sunny day we may go outside for class- bring what you need to be comfortable!


This course will focus on a core theme in geography, the human/environment interaction. Trees and forests will be the element of the landscape that serves as our vehicle for inquiry, as we explore the manner in which a natural element  has shaped human societies, and been shaped by them, across time and space. Our approach will be from the social sciences and humanities, with a continual flow across culture, politics, economics, and the mechanics of technology. The course will be broad in terms of its temporal and geographical emphasis, but will include issues which are both local and contemporary. We will encounter a variety of perspectives and value systems, and use them to shed light on the complexity of the society/nature construct.


Each class will be based on reading and discussion. Periodically we will view short films in class.  These are not part of the university collection, and cannot be made up, thus absence has an additional cost.  Each student will be required to do a final project on a topic related to the themes of the course as well.  Your grade will be based on an in-class test, a take home exam, and a final project.  These will count for 25, 35, and 30 percent of the grade respectively.  You must make a brief presentation about your project in class Week 9!  Twenty percent of your project grade will come from this presentation, so don't lose track of the need to prepare early.  The remaining 10 percent of your grade will come from classroom participation. That's a big chunk, so make sure that you have read the material, contribute to our discussions, and make your presence felt in the course.  I'm happy to make accommodations for students with special learning needs, please see me asap so that we may do so.

Reading schedule is preliminary and may change....  In addition to the items listed, please read the New York Times M-F, paying particular attention to things in stories and advertisements that relate to nature and environment.


Week One Read Merchant chaps 1-2 from Reinventing Eden:  The Fate of Nature in Western Culture.  The Merchant chapters are available under the course documents section on the Blackboard page for our course, as are the rest of your readings.

Week Two It's Arbor Week in Oregon, plant a tree or a bunch of them!  Read all of the selections from Schama, and "Arbor Day" by Cohen from the Encyclopedia of American Holidays and National Days, it's only a few pages long.  (grads look at M. Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion,  Chapter 8 "Vegetation:  Rites and Symbols or Regeneration")

Week Three Read Zipes, "Exploring Historical Paths" in The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World and Harrison Chapter 4 "Forests of Nostalgia" from Forests:  The Shadow of Civilization

Week Four Read  Demeritt's 2001 article "Scientific forest conservation and the statistical picturing of nature's limits in the Progressive-era United States" in Environment and Planning d:  Society and Space 19(4):431-459 and Perlin A Forest Journey.

Week Five Read Williams Chapter 1 "The Forest in American Life" and Chapter 12 "Preservation and Management" from Americans and Their Forests:  A Historical Geography"   Test on Wednesday

Week Six Read Samuels Enduring Roots:  Encounters With Trees, History, and the American Landscape Chapter 1 "Taking Root:  The Charter Oak" & Chapter 3 "Apples:  Core Issues".

Week Seven Read selection from Satterfield, Anatomy of a Conflict

Week Eight Read Cohen Chap 1, Take-home exam due Wednesday

Week Nine  Project Previews Extended Class Sessions This Week 2:00-3:50 Mandatory Attendance!

Two plays will be performed on campus this week in the Hope Theatre.  Treed and Timberland, which deal with Northwest logging and protest will take place May 24th and 25th at 7:30, followed by a discussion.

Week Ten   Cohen final chapter and Chapter 9 "Planting a Tree" from Michael Pollan's Second Nature:  A Gardener's Education

Your Project is due Monday of Finals Week in the Geography Department Office by 5:00 pm!


Additional Sources


John Perlin, A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization

Alexander Porteous, Forest Folklore, Mythology, and Romance

Book Chapters

Robert Graves, "The Tree Alphabet (1)" and "(2)." In The White Goddess: A Historical Grammer of Poetic Myth. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986 ed.

J.R.V. Thirgood, "The Deforestation of the Mediterranean Basin." In Man and the Mediterranean Forest: A History of Resource Depletion London: Academic Press, 1981.


Paul Cloke, et al. "The English National Forest: Local reactions to plans for renegotiated nature-society relations in the countryside." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 552-571, 1996.

Vasudha Narayanan, 'One Tree is Equal to Ten Sons': Hindu Respones to the Problems of Ecology, Population, and Consumption." In Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65(2) 1997.

M.D. Olson, "Re-Constructing Landscapes: The Social Forest, Nature and Spirit-World in Samoa." In Journal of the Polynesian Society 106(4), March, 1997.

Diane Rocheleau and Laurie Ross, "Trees as Tools, Trees as Text: Struggles Over Resources in Zambrana-Chaucuey, Dominican Republic." In Anitpode 27(4):407-428, 1995.

Rosemary Sullivan, "The Dark Pines of the Mind: The symbol of the forest in Canadian literature." In Canadian Literature 67, 1976.


Ralph Waldo Emerson "Wood-Notes" 1840

Robert Frost "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" 1930

Joyce Kilmer "Trees"

Carl Sandburg "Tall Timber" and "Proud Torsos" 1928

David Wagoner "Elegy for a Forest Clear-cut by the Weyerhaeuser Company" and

"Report From a Forest Logged by the Weyerhaeuser Company" 1976