Director of Undergraduate Studies
Office: 350 McGraw Hall
Phone: (607) 255-1978
Fax: (607) 255-0469
Office Hours: Tuesday: 2:15-4:15
Research and Teaching Interests
My general focus is on nature and culture: I wander through parks, cemeteries, and wilderness areas (often with my kids), stare at landscape paintings and photographs, and re-read Thoreau, all in an effort to figure out how ideas about nature have changed over time and how those changes have mattered in the western world. My primary appointment is in the History department, but my Ph.D. is in American Studies, and I remain fully committed to interdisciplinary work. In my graduate teaching, I regularly work with students not only in History but also in English, Science and Technology Studies, History of Architecture, Anthropology, and Natural Resources. On the undergraduate level, I teach courses ranging from an overview of environmental history to seminars on consumerism, the American West, the meanings of wilderness, and the road trip in American culture.
Another strong interest is in creative writing, and I happily serve as the faculty sponsor of a radical underground organization called Historians Are Writers, which brings together Cornell graduate students who believe that academic writing can actually be moving on a deeply human level. I also seek to support innovative history writing through a book series at Yale University Press, called New Directions in Narrative History (John Demos and I are the co-editors).
At Cornell, I’m also the founder and coordinator of the Cornell Roundtable on Environmental Studies Topics (CREST), which holds lunchtime events on campus and also sponsors evening sessions where we discuss relevant books and articles that we’ve read in common. And I’m currently serving as a house fellow at Flora Rose House on West Campus, where you’ll sometimes see me at the dining hall, trying to lasso my three young children as they attempt to lure unsuspecting undergraduates into a food fight.
|Environmental History Sample Syllabus|
|Graduate History Colloquium|
|The Writing of History Syllabus|
Ph.D. Yale University, 2004
A.B. Harvard University, 1992
Recent Publications and Awards
Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition (Yale U. Press, forthcoming in January 2013).
The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism (Viking, 2006).
"American Arcadia: Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Nineteenth-Century Landscape Tradition," Environmental History 15 (April 2010), 206-35.
"Letters to a Tenured Historian: Imagining History as Creative Nonfiction—or Maybe even Poetry,"” Rethinking History 14 (March 2010), 5-38.
"Special Topics in Calamity History: A Review of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth," Reviews in American History, Vol. 35 (Sept. 2007).
“Civil Rights in the Field: Carey McWilliams as a Public-Interest Historian and Social Ecologist,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 73 (May 2004).
“The Ultimate ‘Other’: Post-Colonialism and Alexander von Humboldt’s Ecological Relationship with Nature,” History and Theory, Theme Issue on the Environment, Vol. 42, December, 2003.
“Cold, Hard, Facts,” Palimpsest, Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 2003).
“Virtual Ecology: A Brief Environmental History of Silicon Valley,” World Watch, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan/Feb 1999).
Robert and Helen Appel Fellowship for Humanists and Social Scientists (for merit in teaching and research), Cornell University, 2010.
Faculty Fellowship, Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, 2008-09.
Peterson (Short-Term) Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, 2007-08.
Named a "Top Young Historian" by the History News Network, March, 2007.
Honorable Mention, Frederick Jackson Turner Award for best first book in U.S. History, Organization of American Historians, 2007.
Andrew W. Mellon Short-Term Fellowship, Massachusetts Historical Society, 2006-7.John Addison Porter Prize (for dissertation), Yale University, 2005.
George Washington Egleston Historical Prize (for dissertation), Yale University, 2005.
Prize Teaching Fellowship, Yale University, 2003-4.
Mrs. Giles Whiting Dissertation Fellowship, 2003-4.
Graduate Affiliate Fellowship, Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University, 2003-4.
Huntington Library Research Fellowship, 2001-2.
Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders Research Grant, Yale University, 2001-2.
Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, U.S. Department of Education, 1998-2002.
Project Censored Award in U.S. journalism, for an article on Nigerian playwright and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, 1998.