Book of the Year 2016/2017

Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf

Register now for English 111, a 1-unit credit/no credit discussion class being offered for Spring Semester!

Andrea Wulf reveals in her new book the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, his name lingers everywhere from the Humboldt Current to the Humboldt penguin. Humboldt was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world or racing through anthrax–infested Siberia. Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth and Goethe but also politicians such as Jefferson. Wulf also argues that it was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s Walden. Wulf traces Humboldt’s influences through the great minds he inspired in revolution, evolution, ecology, conservation, art and literature. In The Invention of Nature, Wulf brings this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism back to life.

For questions about Book of the Year please contact Sarah Fay Philips.

Book of the Year 2016-17 Essay Writing Contest

  • Prompt 1: What can Andrea Wulf’s Invention of Nature tell us about issues of positionality, cultural representation, power, and ideology?
  • Prompt 2: What does it mean for our campus and our county to be associated with von Humboldt’s name?
  • Prompt 3: Construct a counter-narrative that uses the title “Invention of Nature.” Challenging Eurocentric narratives that foreground a single knowledge-maker, tell a story about how human beings understand, relate to, or “invent” nature.

English 311 students during Fall 2016 came up with this website as a way of helping students with the contest:

Submissions will be accepted until March 27th at 10am.

Winners and runner-up submissions will be published in the ideaFest journal.

Essays will be selected based on:

  • Submission includes strong connections to personal experience or academic coursework or place
  • Submission has clear focus and organization
  • Submission demonstrates critical understanding and critical thinking about Invention of Nature
  • Engaging and high quality of writing

Your submission will be anonymously evaluated by at least three HSU faculty, staff and students from across the disciplines.

Collaboratively authored submissions are welcome. Submissions should be 2,000-5,000 words in length and can be written in a range of textual genres, including narratives, essays, arguments, or letters. Must have a descriptive title. All references must have full attribution (Chicago style preferred but not required).