Nature, Environments, & Place in American Thought


This exhibit is the creation of students enrolled in Wake Forest University’s First Year Seminar “Nature, Environments, and Place in American Thought” in Spring 2014 and Fall 2015. Environmental writers, philosophers, and activists have long shaped the ways Americans conceive of our natural surroundings. An array of intellectual traditions in history, religion, cultural geography, sociology, landscape architecture, and urban studies also help us to understand the links between place, identity, and social change. The seminar brings these intellectual currents together by exploring the way Americans construct ideas of nature, attached value to certain environments, and invest meaning in particular places.

The purpose of this exhibit is to investigate and present the ways humans understand and engage with their environments. In this sense, the exhibit is a part of a larger tradition. People have long struggled to represent the essence of nature and its imprints on humanity; some utilize written prose, while others turn to maps, photographs, art, and landscape design. Through photo essays, place studies, mapping, and multimedia films, students explore this human impulse, while also creating their own representations of nature in a digital format. The exhibit seeks to present dynamic environments in order to convey their meaning, yet it also showcases students’ creativity and intellectual processes. As past writers and artists have found, by inquiring about our surroundings we may discover ourselves and the nature of humanity.