Delve Fall 2019: Richard Powers’ The Overstory and the Nature Writings of John Muir


Delve Fall 2019: Richard Powers’ The Overstory and the Nature Writings of John Muir


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Thursdays, September 19 – November 7, 2019 (no meeting on September 26 or October 31)
6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (six sessions)
Guide: Lucas Bernhardt

In this Delve seminar, we will compare the ecological writing of Richard Powers and John Muir. Powers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Overstory, comes to us at a time when concern for preserving natural spaces has exploded into anxiety over the planet’s very future. While grappling with deforestation and global warming in fiction, Powers sees himself as a realist. He asks, “Which is more childish, naïve, romantic, or mystical: the belief that we can get away with making Earth revolve around our personal appetites and fantasies, or the belief that a vast, multi-million-pronged project four and a half billion years old deserves a little reverent humility?” Muir, something of a father for the national parks movement, used an ecological perspective in his stories of adventure and exploration in the Sierras roughly a decade before it occurred to scientists in the region to think in such terms.   Powers and Muir are writers for whom awe and wonder are essential, not merely for personal transformation, but as a way to call our attention to meaning and experience outside of the personal sphere.

Reading List:

Richard Powers, The Overstory
John Muir, Nature Writings


Lucas Bernhardt earned MAs in English and in Writing from Portland State University, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He manages the Portland State University Writing Center and is managing editor of Propeller Quarterly, a literature and art magazine.

Delve Access Program
We want Delve seminars to be accessible to everyone, regardless of income and background. We understand that our tuition structure can present obstacles for some people. We are happy to offer an Access Program which provides reduced tuition to qualifying participants. Our Access Program offers Delve seminar registrations at a sliding scale amount of $45-$100 per registration.Contact Susan Moore at if you would like to take a Delve at the Access Rate.