News | April 07, 2015

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Professor’s passion for Earth resonates in new book

As one of five children with a botanist father and stay-at-home mother, James Wohlpart spent a lot of his youth outdoors. “We’d leave before breakfast and not come back till dinner,” says Wohlpart, dean of Undergraduate Studies and English professor who still enjoys walking the Earth. His recent book, “Walking in the Land of Many Gods: Remembering Sacred Reason in Contemporary Environmental Literature” (University of Georgia Press, 2013), reveals his passion for roaming and pondering nature and examines what our relationship is to the world around us. It delves into how our thinking affects the way we relate to the world. He explores three literary works in the book: Janisse Ray’s “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood,” Terry Tempest Williams’ “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place” and Linda Hogan’s “Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World.”

James Wohlpart's new book celebrates nature.
James Wohlpart’s new book celebrates nature.

Although it’s more textbook than leisure reading, it appears to resonate with those seeking better ways to live in harmony with nature. Nature’s backdrop for Wohlpart includes Switzerland, Colorado, Texas, Ohio and Tennessee as well as Florida. He moved frequently until landing at FGCU in 1994 as a founding faculty member. He thought he’d stay two years but that turned into 21 – he will leave in June to become the provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at Northern Iowa University. “It was hot, green and flat year-round,” he recalls. “It took more three years to realize the subtle seasons.” Now he speaks enthusiastically about the translucent green of springtime cypress needles and the scent of pine forests at Thanksgiving. “Place and landscape have been important to me all of my life,” he says. “I’ve been outside my whole life.”