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Freshman Inquiry: Human/Nature

The human animal is considered to be both a part of and yet distinct from nature. This relationship between our human selves and the natural world we inhabit is complicated and perplexing. This theme explores the complex connections between humans and nature. In what ways are we humans "natural"? Is there such a thing as human nature, and if so, what is it? How are we related to nature and our larger natural surrounds? How have we described and represented nature to ourselves? How have humans over the course of time understood and interacted with the natural world? How have our understandings of nature changed? Do humans have unique responsibilities toward the natural world and if so, what are they? Over the course of the year we will attempt to answer these questions, drawing on the resources of the social and biological sciences, history, literature and the arts.

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Tony Wolk is a professor in the English Department. He has also done stints in the Freshman Inquiry program since its inception: specifically with "Embracing Einstein's Universe," "The Cyborg Millennium," and most recently, "Human/Nature." In the English Department he teaches writing classes, and also courses on Shakespeare, Dante, Philip K. Dick, Jorge Luis Borges, and Italo Calvino. Ooligan Press of Portland State has published his series of novels which center on Abraham Lincoln's scarcely known brief visit to Evanston, Illinois, in 1955. "Abraham Lincoln, a Novel Life" is the first of these novels. When Wolk served on the Oregon Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (2008-2010) he described himself as "the false historian."