Pilgrims to the Wild is a survey of American writers who have responded to their encounters with the natural world. Ranging in its treatment from Thoreau’s important but neglected essay, 'Walking,' to the exuberant letters of the young artist Everett Ruess (who disappeared in the Escalante canyonlands), this is a broadly based exploration that brings to bear Eastern and Western classical philosophy, as well as contemporary critical theory, on a distinctive tradition of American Writing—those works concerned with the human relationship to the nonhuman world.
In addition to offering a fresh interpretation of classic authors such a Thoreau and Muir, this book introduces readers to the less widely known but equally fascinating writers Clarence King and Mary Austin.
Praise and Reviews:
“O’Grady deftly handles literary and spiritual references, weaving them successfully in and out of the text. A thoughtful and enticing journey for anyone with a passion for the wild and a fascination with those who define their lives beyond the boundaries posed by society.”
“O’Grady brings a scholar’s care for information and understanding to pilgrim’s sense of adventure. The book’s broad list of works cited provides a fine reading list in wilderness literature. Highly recommended.”
“A significant contribution.”
“A virtuoso performance. This centric, eclectic study is compelling because of its own authentic wildness—dispensing with academic poses, the author instead uses a technique he calls ‘bricolage’ to provide an interesting juxtaposition of personal commentary, biographical and historical background, literary theory, philosophy, and textual analysis. Deftly and clearly reveals the biographical and historical contexts of some of the most important American wilderness writing of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Shows the value of scholarship—ecocriticism—that is fully engaged with literary texts and at the same time attuned to the complexities of the human mind, social relationships, and the nonhuman world.”
—Western American Literature
“A pilgrimage worth making.”
“An exceptional book. Unlike many recent contributions to the burgeoning scholarship on nature writing, this study remains liberated from the customary preoccupation with attempting to define genre or canon. Instead, the book is effectively focused around the psychological, emotional, and literary effects of human encounters with the wilderness. Readers…who come to the book with genuine interest in a literature that both mediates and expresses the human encounter with wilderness will be impressed with John O’Grady’s accomplishment in Pilgrims to the Wild.”
— Nineteenth-Century Prose