After checking and packing field gear at the VCU OAP in the morning, we kicked off the academic side of “Footprints on the James” with a lecture by Ann Woodlief and discussion of her book “In River Time: The Way of the James.” Dr. Woodlief joined the VCU English faculty in the early 1970s and published “In River Time” in 1985. This was a pivotal time in the history of the river. Her writing was heavily influenced by American transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden.” Noting this source of inspiration she commented that “I did not have a pond, but I did have a river!” Her book, we learned, had its origins in a VCU Honors class she taught nearly 35 year ago. Like the Footprints class, this course was a multidisciplinary look at the James River watershed. The class provided a forum where she and her students started “making connections” between what they were learning from expert guest lecturers from diverse fields. Dr. Woodlief became interested in viewing history from the lens of the river and capturing how the use of language has shaped (or misshaped) the reality of the river over the years. The resulting book provides a reflection on how the river shaped the peoples and events within the watershed, and how the people, in turn, shaped the river.
Kate Woodlief on In the footsteps of Ann W… Ann on In the footsteps of Ann W… Sue Paisley on In the footsteps of Ann W… Brian Daugherity on First footprints!