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Michael P. Branch

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 Reader, Ecotone, 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 meet.
  • Mike's publications on John Muir include the following book, articles, and reviews:
    • John Muir's Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa; Unpublished Journals and Selected Correspondence, editor.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.). January, 2001.
    • "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 recalls.
  • 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 book!
  • 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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