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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
2005 Course Description

The Hudson River in American Life

Instructor(s): Thomas Lewis, English

Why the Hudson? Far more than a short river flowing through New York State, the Hudson is a thread that runs through the fabric of four centuries of American history, through the development of American civilization—its culture, its community, and its consciousness. For those living in the United States the Hudson is the river of firsts: the first great river explorers came upon when they arrived in the New World; the first river that led explorers into the continent's uncharted interior; the river that was the first line of defense in the American Revolution; the river of America's first writers, the river that inspired America's first great painters; the river millions of immigrants first encountered when they stepped off their boats onto their new land; the river whose deep water port helped New York City become the nation's foremost financial center; the river that inspired America's first conservationists. And in the late twentieth century, after suffering extraordinary degradation, the river became the first battleground of environmentalists. All these firsts in a landscape that numerous authors have prized for its mystery, romance and ineffable beauty. This interdisciplinary seminar should appeal to students interested in history, art history, literature, biology, and the environment. It will include field trips to the artist Frederick Edwin Church's house, Olana, the Saratoga battlefield and West Point, and will provide opportunities for individual study on a variety of topics.