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Sewanee professor receives literary nature writing award

Posted on Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Sewanee, Tenn.University of the South professor David Haskell has been awarded the 2018 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing. The award, named for the noted American writer John Burroughs, has been given since 1926. Previous recipients include such luminaries of nonfiction literature as Rachel Carson, Loren Eiseley, Aldo Leopold, and Peter Matthiessen.

Haskell was awarded the medal for his book The Songs of Trees, published in 2017. The book invites readers on a journey to several continents to explore the many interconnections between people and trees. The judges cited the Haskell’s “rich, often stunningly beautiful prose” and wrote that the book “pushes the genre of nature writing in a welcome new direction.” Haskell’s first book, The Forest Unseen, was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction and received numerous honors including the National Academies’ Best Book Award.

Haskell has been on the faculty at the University of the South since 1996. He has served as chair of the Department of Biology and mentor to many students, and teaches classes in biology, environmental studies, and nonfiction writing. “This book grew from Sewanee’s soil,” Haskell said. “The university has a longstanding tradition of excellence in environmental studies and literature. It’s an honor that The Songs of Trees can show a small part of this rich and vital work to the wider world.”

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The University of the South, familiarly known as Sewanee, comprises a nationally recognized College of Arts and Sciences and a distinguished School of Theology. Located on 13,000 acres in Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, Sewanee enrolls 1,700 undergraduates and approximately 100 seminarians. For more information about the University of the South, visit