Redefining the Classroom

LSSU grad presents ecocriticism paper at New York conference

Posted: September 22nd, 2010

CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315,; John Shibley, 635-2314,; Prof. Mary Been, 635-2116,

By David Lockhart
LSSU PR Intern

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- Recent Lake Superior State University graduate Peter Pietrangelo of Sault Ste. Marie presented a research paper at the 2010 John Burroughs Nature Writing Conference and Seminar held during the summer at the State University of New York in Oneonta.

The conference, "Old Lessons for a New Millennium: Nature Writing and Environmentalism in the 21st Century," focused on the work of writers who contributed to the early conservation movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the work of contemporary writers who are exerting an influence on the development of early 21st century environmentalism.

Pete Pietrangelo teaching in LSSU piano class

The event, in its sixth year of the John Burroughs Nature Writing series, was presented in affiliation with the (ASLE) Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. ASLE was established in 1992 and now includes members in more than 30 countries. Its members consist of a community of teachers, writers, students, artists and environmentalists interested in the natural world and its meanings and representations in language and culture.

Pietrangelo is the first student from LSSU to make a presentation at the conference. His research paper, "Ecocriticism and the Uses of Upper Peninsula Nature in Jim Harrison's 'True North,'" discusses the purpose of nature as it pertains to man.

"This paper really started out from the desire to study literature set in the Upper Peninsula," he said. "A comparison between the protagonists in Hemingway's Big Two-Hearted River, Nick Adams, and Harrison's David Burkett in True North, reveals that there is a distinct line between the good and bad uses of nature. When Adams approaches a hillside laden with stumps from logging operations of generations past, he sees beauty within the scenery. Upon encountering a similar embankment, Burkett observes a land devastated by man and his machinery.

"Upon noting these distinctive observations, the focus of the paper grew into a study about how we have used the beautiful places 'Yoopers' take for granted, be it through logging, mining, fishing, rowing, hunting or landscaping."

"Ecocriticism is one of the most quickly growing new schools of critical thought in literary and cultural studies," says Prof. Mary Been Ph.D., who was Pietrangelo's senior thesis advisor. "The Eastern Upper Peninsula provides an ideal nexus for a growth of ecocritical work that includes academic studies along with work on applied local issues.

"To my knowledge," Been continued, "this is the first literature-based senior thesis to be written at LSSU within the framework of the new theories of ecocritical thought. Pete did an excellent job of linking Harrison's fictional text to the actual cultural and environmental histories of the U.P."

Print-quality versions of the photos in this story are available here and here.

"The conference was a great experience," Pietrangelo said. "The chance to present alongside some of the most eminent scholars in the field of ecocritical studies was a wonderful opportunity. My presentation was well-received, and the attendees were amazed to see that the effects of logging and mining in early 20th century can still be seen today."

Pietrangelo graduated last May from LSSU. He was a liberal studies major with concentrations in both English and professional communication. He works as a reporter for The Evening News in Sault Ste. Marie with plans on attending law school in the near future. His conference trip was funded by LSSU Student Government.

For more information on LSSU programs in English and communication, visit -LSSU-