“I’m honored to teach at a college where students are challenged to achieve a deeper level of environmental awareness in every class they take. The study of literature plays a special role in this sort of curriculum, for the stories we are told shape the way in which we see this world-and how we interact with it. We would do well to listen very closely to such stories.”
Born and raised in western Oregon, where conflict between environmentalists and the timber industry has simmered for decades, Laird Christensen grew up questioning the proper role of humans in ecological communities. The search for balance between the human and the wild has guided his writing, teaching, and activism. Always most at home in the woods, Laird brings a wide range of environmental experience to Green Mountain College: his first full-time job in the forest was grading lumber for an Oregon sawmill and his last was working as a ranger for the state of New Hampshire. In the years between, he worked as an activist for the League of Conservation Voters, helped organize the Monadnock Greens, and worked to defend Oregon’s ancient forests. His interest in exploring ecologically sustainable lifestyles led him to live in several intentional communities, and to serve as facilitator on the Board of Directors of the Rutland Area Food Co-op.
Along the way, Laird earned several degrees, and in 1999 the University of Oregon awarded him a Ph.D. for his dissertation, Spirit Astir in the World: Sacred Poetry in the Age of Ecology. His poems and essays have appeared in a variety of books and journals, including Northwest Review, Wild Earth, Talking Leaves, and Studies in American Indian Literature. A former graduate liaison and Executive Council member of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), Christensen has taught literature and writing at the Universities of Illinois and Oregon, as well as at Keene State, Franklin Pierce, and Alma Colleges. He served as the founding director of Green Mountain College’s Master of Science in Environmental Studies, and currently directs the college’s Master of Science program in Resilient and Sustainable Communities. His teaching interests include American literature, creative writing, bioregionalism, and natural history writing.
In 2009 Laird was invited to the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, to lead a workshop on place-based teaching for professors from as far away as India, Turkey, and Bulgaria. While there, he also gave a reading of creative nonfiction written during a sabbatical spent at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades. As writer-in-residence at the Andrews Forest in the spring of 2007, Laird contributed to a Long-Term Environmental Reflection project, in which American nature writers add their impressions of selected observation spots to a Forest Log that will eventually span 200 years.
While he continues to write about environmental issues in his native Northwest, Laird is increasingly focused on Vermont, exploring how one comes to feel at home in a place through exercises in environmental perception and learning the local natural history. As a part of this reinhabitory work, he weaves local landmarks through the songs he writes for Spruce Knob Uprising, a string band that plays at concerts and rallies throughout the region. Laird became a new father in October of 2009, and is thrilled to be introducing his son, Addison, to the forests and hills around Poultney.
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Ph.D. English Literature, University of Oregon, August 1999.
M.A. English Literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 1993.
B.A. English Literature, Keene State College, summa cum laude, May 1991.
Sustainable Community Development
A Bioregional Approach to Communities
Dharma Bums, Pranksters, and the Making of a Counterculture
Native American Renaissance
Narrative in Film
The Idea of Vermont
Bioregional Theory and the Foodshed
The Modern American Novel
Chinese Mountain Poetry (GMC Block Course)
Vermont Wilderness (GMC Block Course)
Hudson River (GMC Block Course)
Bioregional Theory and Practice
Environmental Writing Workshop
Creative Nonfiction Workshop
Images of Nature
Topics in Native American Literature
Native American Voices
Native American Women Writers
Survey of American Literature
Introduction to Creative Writing
Introduction to the English Major
Introduction to Poetry and Drama
Introduction to Fiction
Laird received the GMC’s Exemplary Teacher Award from the United Methodist Church in 2005, and was named the University of Oregon’s Outstanding Instructor of Composition in 1998-99 (an award for which he was also nominated in 1995-96 and 1996-97). In addition, Laird was named to “The List of Teachers Ranked Excellent by their Students” each semester he taught at the University of Illinois.
“Letter to America.” Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments (February 7, 2017: http://www.terrain.org/2017/guest-editorial/letter-to-america-christensen/
“A Place in Mind.” Northern Woodlands (Winter 2013): 80.
“A Tree Falls in the Forest.” Whole Terrain: Reflective Environmental Practice 12 (2012): 16-20.
“Teaching Bioregional Perception – at a Distance.” The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place. Ed. Tom Lynch, Cheryll Glofelty, and Karla Armbruster. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012: 377-90
“The Other Side of the Clearcut.” The Forest Log. H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest: Long Term Ecological Reflections, 2003-2203. May 2009.
Teaching North American Environmental Literature. Edited with Frederick O. Waage and Mark Long. New York: Modern Language Association, 2008.
“Writing Home in a Global Age.” World Literature Today 82:4 (July–August, 2008): 16-20.
Teaching About Place: Learning from the Land. Edited with Hal Crimmel. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008.
“A Hudson River Immersion.” Written with Jon Jensen. Whole Terrain: Reflective Environmental Practice, Vol. 13 (2004/2005): 14-20.
“Northwest Passages.” Holding Common Ground: The Individual and Public Lands in the American West, edited by Paul Lindholdt and Derrick Knowles. Eastern Washington University Press, 2005: 23-27.
“The Guerrilla Gatherers.” The Utne Reader (May/June 2004): 18-19.
“The Voice of Experience: An Interview with John Elder.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 10.1 (Winter 2003): 195-213.
“Writing the Watershed.” Teaching in the Field: Working with Students in the Outdoor Classroom. Ed. Hal Crimmel. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2003: 124-36.
“The Give and Take of Wildcrafting.” Whole Terrain 11 (2002/2003): 2-13.
“The Pragmatic Mysticism of Mary Oliver.” Ecopoetry: A Critical Introduction. Ed. J. Scott Bryson. University of Utah Press, 2001.
“Spirit Astir in the World: Wendell Berry’s Sacramental Poetry.” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 52.2 (Winter 2000): 163-81.
Recovering Pine River. Written and edited with the Watershed Writing Collective. Alma, MI: WTW Publications, 2000.
“Not Exactly Like Heaven: Theological Imperialism in The Surrounded.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 11.1 (Spring 1999): 2-16.
“Becoming Home.” The Ecotone: The Journal of Environmental Studies 1:1 (Winter 1997): pp. 4-15.
His poetry has appeared in a variety of publications, including The American Poetry Anthology , Aurora , Creation Spirituality, The Ecotone, Northwest, The Orphic Lute, Potato Eyes, Talking Leaves, TAPJoE, The Trumpeter, and Wild Earth.
“Stories from the Great Transition: How the Arts Prepare Us for Life in the Time of Climate Change.” Music, Conservation, and the Environment, February 2017, Boston Athenæum, MA. Video »
“Teaching Environmental Studies at a Distance: A Bioregional Approach.” The Seventh Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2007, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC.
“Developing a Bioregional Approach to Distance Education.” Fourteenth International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology. October 2006, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME.
“Writing Home: Teaching Ecological Literacy through Creative Writing.” Annual Conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, March 2006, Austin, TX.
“Pulp Fiction: The Timber Industry in Contemporary American Fiction.” The Sixth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2005, University of Oregon.
“Writing Natural History in the Classroom.” Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest: ASLE Symposium on Northern Forest Studies, June 2004, Crawford Notch, NH.
“A Hudson River Immersion: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Ecological Literacy.” Fourteenth North American Interdisciplinary Conference on Environment and Community, February 2004, Empire State College, Saratoga Springs, NY.
“Teaching in the Field: Working with Students in the Outdoor Classroom.” The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2003, Boston University.
“Northwest Passages.” The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2003, Boston University.
“Bioregionalism in the Classroom.” The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2003, Boston University.
“Teaching Environmental Literatures.” Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, April 2002, Toronto, Ontario.
“Teaching Environmental Literacy through Interdisciplinary Block Courses.” New England Environmental Education Alliance Conference, October 2002, Moultonboro, New Hampshire.
“Writing from the Edges: The Hudson River Block Course.” Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, April 2002, Toronto, Ontario.”
” A Language that Heals: Linda Hogan’s Dwellings.” The Fourth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2001, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff.
“The Death of the Reader: Ecological Thanatopsis in American Poetry.” American Literature Association Conference, May 2001, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Reading and Writing the Bioregion.” Taking Nature Seriously: Citizens, Scientists, and Environment, February 2001, University of Oregon, Eugene.
“Greening the Humanities, on Paper and in Practice.” Taking Nature Seriously: Citizens, Scientists, and Environment, February 2001, University of Oregon, Eugene.
“Writing the Watershed: A Collaborative Approach.” Modern Language Association Convention, December 2000, Washington, D.C.
“Teaching Bioregional Biographies.” Northeast Modern Language Association Convention, April 2000, Buffalo, New York.
“Trends in Teaching Literature and Environment: From Overview to Application.” Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association Conference, November 1999, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.
“Toward an Ecological Poetics.” The Third Biennial Conference of the Association for Studies of Literature and Environment, June 1999, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo.
“The Lay of the Land: Landscape and Literature in America.” Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, April 1998, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“The Clearcut Aesthetics of Robert Michael Pyle’s Wintergreen.” Western Literature Association Conference, October 1998, Banff, Alberta.
“Song of My Selves: Whitman’s Romantic, Postmodern, and Ecological Frames of Identity.” North American Interdisciplinary Conference on Environment and Community, February 1998, University of Nevada, Reno.
“Not Exactly Like Heaven: Spiritual and Ecological Imperialism in D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded.” Conference on Native American Literature, May 1997, University of Oregon, Eugene.”
” ‘What I Know of Spirit is Astir in the World’: Wendell Berry’s Biblical Panentheism.” Conference on Christianity and Literature, May 1997, Seattle University, Seattle.”
” ‘Only Through the Dark Woods’: Thoreau, Wilderness, and the American Pastoral.” The Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, April 1996, Central Oregon State College, Bend.
“Becoming Place: Toward an Ecological Narrative Structure.” The First Biennial Conference of the Association for Studies in Literature and Environment, June 1995, Colorado State University, Fort Collins.
Selected Works Available Online
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