Michael P. Branch
- Michael P. Branch is Professor of Literature
and Environment and Director of Graduate Studies in the English Department at the University
of Nevada, Reno. He is a co-founder of the Association
for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), Book Review Editor of the journal
ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, and
series co-editor of the University of Virginia Press book series Under
the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism. He has published
five books and more than one hundred articles and reviews on nature
writing and environmental literature, and his fiction, creative nonfiction,
and poetry has appeared in magazines including Utne
Orion Afield, Isotope, Whole
Terrain, CrossRoads, Red Rock Review,
and Terminus. Mike lives with his wife and two daughters at 6,000 feet
in the desert north of Reno, where the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada
- Mike's publications on John Muir include the following book, articles,
- John Muir's Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East
to Africa; Unpublished Journals and Selected Correspondence, editor. Foreword
by Robert Michael Pyle. Washington, D.C.: Island Press/Shearwater
Books, 2001. ISBN#1-55963-640-8 (cloth). Paperback published
in fall, 2004.
- "A Rambling Life." Foreword to A Wanderer All
My Days: John Muir in New England (by J. Parker Huber), Green Frigate
Books, 2006: xv-xix.
- "My First Summer in the Sierra." American History
through Literature, 1870-1920 (edited by Gary Scharnhorst and
Thomas Quirk), Scribners, 2006: 734-37.
- Review of Reconnecting with John Muir (by Terry Gifford). John
Muir Newsletter 16.2/3 (Spring/Summer, 2006): 21.
- "John Muir's Travels to South America and Africa" in
John Muir: Family, Friends, and Adventures (edited
by Sally Miller), University of New Mexico Press, 2005: 249-265.
- "John Muir's My First Summer in the Sierra," ISLE:
Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 11.1
(Winter 2004): 139-52.
- "John Muir as World Traveler: The Journey to South America
and Africa, 1911-12" (in Japanese translation). Ekkyo-suru
Toposu: Kankyo Bungaku-ron Josetsu [Topos Crossing Borders:
An Introduction to Environmental Literature and Ecocriticism] (edited
by Ken-ichi Noda and Masami Yuki), Sairyusha Press, 2004: 144-62.
[Revised version of article by the same title in Proceedings
of the International Symposium on Environmental Literature, ASLE
Japan, 2003: 164-74].
- "John Muir as World Traveler: The Journey to South America
and Africa, 1911-12" (in Japanese translation). Proceedings
of the International Symposium on Environmental Literature (edited
by Ken-ichi Noda and Masami Yuki), ASLE Japan, 2003: 164-74.
- "Still Journeying." [poetry] John Muir Newsletter 13.4 (Fall, 2003): 3.
- "John Muir's Travels to South America and Africa (part 2)," John
Muir Newsletter 12.1 (Winter, 2001/02): 1-4.
- "John Muir's Travels to South America and Africa (part 1)," John
Muir Newsletter 11.2 (Fall, 2001): 1-5.
- "John Muir," The
Literary Encyclopedia (edited
by Emory Elliott, et. al.).
- "The Corwin," An Encyclopedia of American Literature
of the Sea and Great Lakes (edited by Jill B. Gidmark), Greenwood
Press, 2000: 94.
- "The Harriman Expedition," An Encyclopedia
of American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes (edited by Jill B. Gidmark),
Greenwood Press, 2000: 182-83.
- Review of The Young John Muir: An Environmental Biography,
by Steven J. Holmes. Endeavour: A Quarterly Review of the
History and Philosophy of Science 24.1 (March, 2000): 44-45.
- "Telling Nature's Story: John Muir and the Decentering of
the Romantic Self," John Muir in Historical Perspective (edited by Sally M. Miller), Peter Lang Publishers, 1999: 99-122.
- "Robert Underwood Johnson: John Muir's Ally," John
Muir Newsletter 9.2 (Spring, 1999): 5-6.
- "'Angel guiding gently': The Yosemite Meeting of Ralph Waldo
Emerson and John Muir, 1871," Western American Literature 32.2 (Summer, 1997): 126-49.
- Mike remembers that as a doctoral student in Virginia in the late
eighties he had to go office door to office door looking for faculty
who would be willing to serve on the graduate committee of a student
working with a "minor figure" like Muir, who was considered
(if he was considered at all!) an activist rather than a writer of stature.
After Mike came west to Nevada in the mid-nineties, he had the wonderful
experience of explaining to the parents of the woman he was then dating
(later his wife) who Muir was and why Muir was important. When he was
done with his explanation, the folks who would later become his in-laws
just smiled. Both had attended John Muir Elementary School! Mike now
teaches at least one John Muir text every year, and Muir is recognized
as a major literary figure.
- Mike has worked
on many scholarly projects, but he says that none has meant as much
to him as did his 2001 book John Muir's Last Journey.
In the years he spent working on that book, Mike made frequent trips
to the Special Collections
at University of the Pacific, where he
worked with the manuscript journals and letters from Muir's 1911-12
voyage to South America and Africa. "It was as if the years between
us and Muir disappeared in the moments when I held his holograph manuscripts
in my hands," Mike
- Over the
years, Mike has done many readings, lectures, and interviews on John
Muir. Here are his two favorite memories of Muir talks. Once, after
doing a Muir reading at Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, everyone
at the reading walked together from the bookstore through the neighborhood
to observe a rare tree (the Monkey-Puzzle Tree, Araucaria
imbricata, now A. araucana)
- one that Muir had seen in the Andes. And once, at a reading at University
of the Pacific, four generations of Muir's descendents attended the
reading, which Mike did with fellow Muir scholar
Bonnie Gisel. After inscribing a book to them,
Mike had the privilege of having four generations of Muirs sign his
- Mike treasures John Muir's contributions to American culture because
they combine spiritual, environmental, and literary imperatives. Mike
feels that "in John Muir we have a model of a whole person - someone
who didn't overspecialize, but who instead managed to integrate his
various passions in the most creative and productive ways. And he's
a great model for us because he never let his intellectual life get
too far separated from his ethical life - he knew that the natural world
he enjoyed in the field and celebrated on the page also had to be protected."
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