During the academic year, I direct and teach college courses that combine literary study with outdoor adventure. Students in Wilderness Literature, Cape Cod Literature, and other courses in the “Adventure Literature” series hone my thinking about place, environment, and human identity during our shared adventures.

Image: Student reading outdoors

The Penn State Adventure Literature Program started in summer 2000, when Professor Bob Burkholder offered a Wilderness Literature course anchored in a backpacking trip. Since then, the program has grown to offer five literature courses a year, all of which include field experience.

Image: Students in the Beach Literature course
Students in the Beach Literature course model barrier island formation. Bull Island, SC.

Adventure Literature students read, and read widely. Classic and current prose, scientific articles, film, contemporary poetry . . . these genres, and more, give us cultural and ecological context for the places we go and the activities we engage in. The texts we read inform our experience—and, naturally, our writing.

Image: Student reading outdoors

Local authors, activists, and experts join students for part or all of the adventures, helping us consider the places we explore from diverse perspectives and disciplines. The result? Courses that bring literature to life.

Image: Bob Prescott discusses marine strandings
Bob Prescott, director of the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, discusses marine strandings with Cape Cod Literature students.

Adventure Literature courses reward curiosity, resilience, and (of course) an adventurous spirit, but are designed for all levels of outdoor experience and all students. They are general education courses that require no prerequisites, offering students of diverse interests the opportunity to integrate lived outdoor experiences into their education.

Image: Students kayaking

I have been stewarding the Adventure Literature program since 2017, and it has surprised me every year. It’s my privilege to connect students with literature, landscapes, and each other through these powerful and engaging courses.

Image: Students backpacking

Visit Penn State Adventure Literature is on instagram and facebook! You can also see our official penn state english department page for more information.