The Cultural History of Trees and the Tech Tower White Oak

Spring 2022
Thomas Hugh Crawford
LMC 2050

In a recent episode of the television series Ted Lasso, Beard (Ted’s assistant coach) name-drops Suzanne Simard in a random comment. Prior to that conversation, he is seen reading Merlin Sheldrake’s recent book Entangled Life. Sheldrake and Simard study the complex interactions between trees, plants, fungi, and bacteria— work that points toward different research models and questions how we conceptualize life. Other scholars across many fields have in the last decade begun to rethink the complex entanglements of human and non-human lives, with trees figuring prominently. Because of age and disease, this winter Georgia Tech will remove a large and storied white oak that has long framed Tech Tower. In this seminar we will take that as a prompt to think (and write) about human/tree interactions by studying Georgia Tech’s “Tree Campus” and reviewing recent work on trees in a number of genres: e.g., science writing, memoirs, novels, and essays while at the same time finding a way to mediate the story of the fallen Georgia Tech white oak. In addition to working in a range of media—images, video, sound, text—we will also work with actual wood from the tree, exploring it as a media form. An LMC seminar, this course will also carry Serve Learn Sustain status, and students will assist in projects with the local group TreesAtlanta and with the Old Growth Forest Network (so between wood working and tree planting, you will get your hands dirty!). Some texts we will likely read include Susanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree, Joan Maloof’s Treepedia, William Bryant Logan’s Oak, and Richard Power’s novel The Overstory. 

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