This study aims at highlighting the relevance of nature writing in both the American and British literary canon. The very concept of nature writing has too often been ridiculed and
disregarded by various critics over the last centuries as a romantic, or rather romanticised, fantasy that cannot keep up with the realities of the harsh natural environments. Labelling
or even defining nature writing as mere ”bourgeois escapism” does not do it justice.
Therefore, in this dissertation I intend to emphasize and not glorify the importance of nature writing in analysing various works of authors that have put nature at the core of their work.
In turn I am hoping to convey how each of the following writers reveal aspects of the human condition in focusing on nature and nature’s appeal to humanity. It is in confronting nature,
living in nature, living with nature that we can discover who we really are. Thus, I intend to demonstrate how prominent writers like Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, Jon
Krakauer and Robert Macfarlane have managed throughout various centuries (19th century to 21st century) to do just that; writing about nature in a way that makes us aware of our
own humanity. Thoreau’s philosophical exposé ‘Walden’, Hemingway’s short novel ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, Robert Macfarlane’s cultural history ‘Mountains of the Mind’, and John
Krakauer’s non-fiction novel ‘Into the Wild’ serve as a way to highlight the diversity of nature writing. The reason for choosing these very different authors from different periods
and different backgrounds is to demonstrate the vast panoply and the numerous layers that nature writing entails. At the same time, I find it interesting to investigate how certain
aspects of nature writing might have changed throughout the centuries while also highlighting its similarities that still remain. The introduction of this thesis is not only going
to define the concept of nature writing, but is also going to explain what I mean by “the human condition”. I then intend to present the four authors through the very landscapes
that lie at the core of the works discussed in this dissertation. In beginning with the father of modern nature writing - American author, poet, essayist and philosopher, Henry David
Thoreau - the first chapter will set the framework for this entire dissertation as it gives a historical as well philosophical background to Thoreau’s transcendentalist ideas and
writings. Thoreau’s ideas are going to be explored in the chapter ‘The Forest’ whereas the chapters ‘The Sea’, ‘The Mountains’ and ‘The Wilderness - A Journey’ are going to deal with
Hemingway, Macfarlane, and Krakauer’s works respectively. In outlining the various aspects of these selected works – nature as refuge, nature as a source of regeneration, nature
as escape, nature the unknown, and nature vs. society – I am then going to conclude with the similarities and differences between the protagonists of these four pieces of writing:
Thoreau himself, Santiago, Macfarlane himself and Christopher MacCandless.