Campus News

Featured Academic News Story: Matthew Klingle Examines American Experience of City and Nature

Story posted August 06, 2004

The American city of today is most often viewed as something wholly separate from nature.

This divorced view was not always the case, says Bowdoin Assistant Professor of History and Environmental Studies Matthew Klingle. "Many Americans starting in the mid-19th century thought of urbanization as a process for improving nature.

"Planners, engineers, and landscape architects believed that nature could be harnessed and perfected to help advance social reform, build utilities and beautify urban space.

"When European Americans went west, they saw nature as an endless cornucopia and built cities to reflect that nature was the engine that drove American greatness."

Those processes often involved dramatic reform of the natural environment. A case in point is the city of Seattle, Washington, says Klingle, who is researching a book on Seattle's environmental and urban development tentatively titled Urban by Nature: Seattle and the Making of the American Environmental Metropolis.

Klingle is taking a year-long sabbatical from teaching to complete his book, with a summer stipend grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the American Council of Learned Societies.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for me to focus on my research," says Klingle, "and I'm confident that my time off will recharge my work with students." Klingle says he has discussed many of the ideas he explores in his work with Bowdoin students, and that their perspectives are invaluable to his growth as a scholar. "My time in the classroom energizes my research, and vice-versa."

Read the full story about Matthew Klingle and his research on Bowdoin's Academic News site.

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