Outdoor Literature


PE 4440 Course Website - Home Page







Outdoor Literature (PE 4440)
Ron Watters, Professor of Outdoor Education - Sports Science and Physical Education

PE 4440 - 3 Credits - Fall Semester Only - Idaho State University

Description of Course:  This is a course on outdoor literature. Outdoor literature, of course, is a broad topic and includes several different genres including writings in outdoor adventure, nature, the environment, and adventure travel writing.  To keep things manageable, the emphasis of this course is on outdoor adventure writing:  exploration, survival, sailing, mountaineering, whitewater boating, kayaking, etc.  But outdoor adventure writing can't be totally divorced from other related genres. There are a number of key works which--although not technically outdoor adventure--have had a profound influence in all outdoor writing.  One prime example is Thoreau's Walden

In addition to covering important works which had an influence on outdoor adventure writing, it is also the purpose of this course to provide some sense of history.  Outdoor adventure activities such as mountaineering and river running have a rich history populated with fascinating men and women, and filled with triumphs and failures, and real-life mysteries.  Thus this class encompasses outdoor adventure, its history and the writings which influence outdoor adventure.   To provide variety, readings will be selected from a range of different outdoor activities.  Some of those activities include survival, mountaineering, horseback riding, river running, arctic exploration, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, desert hiking, and backpacking. 

Class Syllabus

Class Syllabus



Course Schedule (Includes Reading Assignments)

Lecture Notes


Background # 1 (Generations, Wilderness & Religion)

Background # 2 (Osborne Russell)

Wilderness Art Lecture Notes

Thoreau Lecture Notes (First Reading from Anthology)

Twain Lecture Notes (Second Reading from Anthology)

Wymper Lecture Notes (Third Reading from Anthology)

Powell Lecture Notes (4th & 5th Readings from Anthology)

Bird and Muir Lecture Notes (6th & 7th Readings from Anthology)

Mary Kingsley Lecture Notes

Robert Falcon Scott Lecture Notes

Ernest Shackleton Lecture Notes

Into Thin Air & Everest Mountaineering History Lecture Notes

Leopold/Olson & History of Conservation Lecture Notes

Colin Fletcher & Edward Abbey Notes

Women Outdoor Writers Lecture Notes




Mark Twain's Route Out West (Roughing It)

Mark Twain's Survival Ordeal (Roughing It)

Edward Whymper's Route on the Matterhorn

John Wesley Powell: Map of Colorado Travels

John Wesley Powell: Map of the Canyons of the Green & Colorado Rivers

Isabella Bird in Colorado

Mary Kingsley's Travels in Africa

Jack London / Robert Service - Route to Klondike Gold Rush

Robert Falcon Scott - Journey to the South Pole

Ernest Shackleton - Escape from Antarctica

Don't Yet Have the Text: Anthology of the Outdoor Experience?
You will need two texts for the class: Into Thin Air and the Anthology of the Outdoor Experience.  If it's early in the class and you do not yet have the Anthology, or if the bookstore temporarily runs out, I have the first couple of chapters of the Anthology available on-line.  This will allow you to keep up with the class even if you are lacking the text at the beginning of the class.  However, pick up the book as soon as you can.  You'll need it.  Here are the chapters on-line:

Henry David Thoreau - Walden

Mark Twain - Roughing It

Edward Wymper - Scrambles Amongst the Alps

John Welsey Powell:  Second Reading on Powell

The second reading on Powell is on-line (link above), but for the first reading on Powell, you'll need a copy of the Anthology.

Because of copyright restrictions, no more readings are available on-line.  By the time you get to the Powell readings, you should have picked up a copy of the Anthology.


Wilderness Art

Wilderness Art Intro Page - Links to All Images of Art Studied in the Class

(For detailed information on each of the paintings and the painters, see Background # 3)

Hand-outs on the Generations

Generations in American History (List, Definitions, Characteristics)

Outdoor Generation Profiles in Outdoor Literature & History

Generational Types

Social Movements

Dominant and Recessive Outdoor Generations

Comprehensive Paper on the Generational Analysis & Outdoor Adventure
Classroom Readings Not Included in the Anthology

To Build a Fire by Jack London

"The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service   .

(Note: the Osborne Russell readings are found in Background # 1
readings and notes)

Study Guides

Practice Quiz - Helpful to get a feel for quizzes given each class period

Study Guide for Mid-course Test

Study Guide for Final Test

Other Information


Primary Author List

Annotated List of Primary Works Used in the Class

Best Reading Lists

National Outdoor Book Awards




Pub History: This page was originally located at the following URL:


Information on Idaho State University Outdoor Education is found here: ISU Outdoor Education


Subsidary sites with information are found here:



eWeb (Europe)

Google Sites (US)

Google Web

Hostinger (Great Britain)


Google +

Word Press




Top of Page








Top of Page