Getting my word in edgewise
Overseeing the creation of "Our Land, Our Literature"
has brought together four of my great loves: nature, literature,
Indiana, and undergraduate students.
For several years I had been determined to create
an anthology of Indiana's environmental literature, but time for
research came only in fits and spurts semester after semester.
Finally, I realized that through a seminar at the Virginia B.
Ball Center, I might be able to lure fifteen undergraduate researchers
into my obsession with me.
It worked, and I, perhaps more than anyone, am amazed
by how much information we've uncovered. I expected to find plenty
of writing about nature and the environment in Indiana, but I
had no idea how very rich the texts would be—how vividly
these writers would tell us what Indiana's early landscapes looked
and smelled and felt like, and what the damage to that landscape
would look and smell and feel like.
These fifteen students and I have only skimmed the
surface, though, in our anthology that became an encyclopedia
that finally became something else altogether. We started out
with a list of 136 authors whom I expected to touch on nature
and the environment in Indiana. This semester, we worked our way
through 50 of them. (Three, unfortunately, had to be eliminated.
As much as we wanted to include Kurt Vonnegut, David Graham Phillips,
and Muncie's own Emily Kimbrough, the students in charge of each
of these authors found virtually nothing relevant to nature and
the environment in any of their writings.) In the years to come,
with other students and on a much smaller scale, I hope to continue
exploring the writing of the 86 writers who remain on our list
and see the number of author entries in this website expand.
As is the case with any project of this magnitude,
many individuals are responsible for its success. While I won't
name all of them here, I do want to offer my personal thanks to
a few key individuals and organizations:
Fani Anagnostou, a 1998 graduate
of Butler University (Indianpolis). It was Fani's presentation
at Butler's Undergraduate Research Conference that first tipped
me off to the wealth of Indiana literature concerned with nature
and the environment. I've been on a mission to learn even more
Ball State's Center for Energy
Research, Education, and Service (CERES). CERES funded a 1999-2000
research fellowship that allowed me to begin formalizing my
investigation of the literature.
Clint Winkler, a graduate student
in landscape architecture at Ball State University, who served
as our Web Design and Development Advisor. His educational background
in graphic design and professional experience in webpage development
made him the ideal instructor, trouble-shooter, and "how-to"
person through the entire process of building and fine-tuning
The rest of the VBC staff, Donna
Ferguson and Jamie Miles, who kept us on track and looking good
in the public eye.
The many, many individuals and
offices at Ball State that lent us equipment and expertise at
the drop of a hat. Most important, thanks to Wayne Mock and
the staff at the Center for Teaching with Technology, and the
staff of University Computing Services, who took on the technology
tasks we couldn’t handle alone.
Bill Duell, who, on behalf of
Paws, Inc., donated the dozens of prairie plants and trees that
we planted at the Limberlost.
My greatest thanks, however,
go first to Virginia Ball and Joe Trimmer. Their vision
for this amazing place, the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative
Inquiry, has allowed my students and me to engage in the kind
of learning and teaching that none of us otherwise would have
experienced—ever—in our academic careers.
Finally, thank you to the fifteen
students who jumped in, head first, to a topic that most of them
hadn't even thought about before the fall of 2002. Their creativity,
perfectionism, and commitment to the content and execution of
this website are, ultimately, the only reason that this website
works so well, looks so good, and means anything at all.