Critical & Reflective Inquiry: The Garden and the Wild



Course Number




Course Description

How do people make sense of their relationship with the natural world? We will explore this question using two seemingly opposed conceptual models: the garden, a natural space shaped by human hands for material and aesthetic purposes; and wilderness, the untrammeled reaches of the earth where people may visit but not inhabit. In this course we will investigate gardens and wilderness as physical and philosophical landscapes, each one reflecting a diversity of human experiences and ideals, from the sacred to the prosaic. How have notions about gardens and the wild changed over time and across different cultural contexts? What do people seek in such places and spaces today? Is it possible to garden in the wilderness—indeed, might that be an initial step towards truly calling a place home?

Engaging these and many other questions will require us to hone a variety of ecological, historical, and analytical perspectives. As the first course in Fairhaven’s core curriculum, this seminar is built upon critical and reflective thinking, reading, and writing. Poetry, science, philosophy, and policy will all inform our discussions, as we read and listen to what different people have to say about the meaning and sustenance (both literal and metaphorical) they derive from gardens and the wild. We also will take the time to learn experientially, whether venturing amid forests and mountain peaks or digging gently into the dirt at our doorstep.


Fairhaven admissions

Materials Fee


Required Texts

Texts: Reading assignments will be drawn from a broad range of academic and applied literature and distributed primarily in PDF format.


S/NX grading; narrative evaluation

As part of the seminar format of this course, you will be asked to demonstrate your learning in multiple ways, including contributing actively to class discussions and reflecting on what you are learning. You will write a formal research paper, and give a presentation to your classmates about your findings. You also will write a personal learning narrative, and develop a plan by quarter’s end that identifies and assesses strengths and areas for improvement in your writing.


Fall 2023

Course Instructor(s)

John Tuxill

Course Subject