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William Wordsworth And The Invention of National Parks


A new exhibition in the Harold B. Lee Library traces the origin of the idea of national parks back to the leading poet of the English Romantic Movement, William Wordsworth. Wordsworth inspired millions of hikers, climbers and artists as well as later American authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Edward Abbey.

The library’s exhibition includes both Wordsworth’s writing and examples of those who followed him. On display are first editions of Emerson’s Nature, Thoreau’s Walden, and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Also displayed is John Muir’s 1901 Our National Parks. Each of these books is distinctly American, yet each also manifests a debt to Wordsworth and the transatlantic Romantic tradition. All of these American writers grew up on Wordsworth’s writings. Emerson even visited the aged poet in 1833, and his Nature was in some ways an attempt to complete Wordsworth’s work. Nature, in turn, became a major influence on Thoreau’s Walden.

William Wordsworth and The Invention of National Parks is located on level 3, the main level of the library. Admission is free and it is open during all library hours. It will be in place until October 2013. Visit the official exhibit website for a closer look.