Isolation and Wilderness

A Virtual Talk by DJ Lee

Presented on Jan. 29, 2021 via Zoom


In the talk “Isolation and Wilderness: The Surprising Ways American Wilderness Intersects with the COVID-19 Pandemic,” author and historian DJ Lee discussed the surprising ways in which American wilderness, as a concept and a physical place, intersects with some of the causes and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee is the author of the award-winning memoir Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots (2020). Mary Clearman Blew, author of Jackalope Dreams and Ruby Dreams of Janis Joplin, praised Lee for having "achieved an intricate weave of myriad strands, of the lives of family members and strangers past and present as well as her own intimate knowledge and experience, as she explores the perilous and profound implications of wilderness and in particular the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness of Idaho and Montana."

This presentation is part of the Forest History Society's "Unprecedented Seasons" virtual lecture series. The talk can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

DJ Lee

DJ Lee spent significant portions of the last 15 years in the secluded mountains of Idaho and Montana conducting the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project. The project includes more than 50 oral histories, an oral history book, and a memoir that investigates her family’s 100-year relationship with the land and the larger wilderness story. The project ended in March 2020, just as the pandemic forced people around the globe to isolate, quarantine, and social distance. Covering topics such as eco-sickness, eco-arts, wilderness history and ethics, and “right relations” between humans and the natural world as examined by Indigenous scholars like Jay Hansford Vest and Robin Wall Kimmerer, Lee’s work reflects on how wilderness as a concept and a place can help us cope with the pandemic.

DJ Lee is a Regents Professor in the English Department at Washington State University, where she teaches literature, environmental humanities, and creative writing. She also co-directs the Visiting Writers Series, serves as a University Ombudsman, and is a scholar-fellow at the Black Earth Institute. Lee has published more than 100 creative and scholarly works, including 8 books, most recently Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots (2020) and The Land Speaks: New Voices at the Intersection of Oral and Environmental History, co-edited with Kathryn Newfont. Lee is recipient of the Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship; the Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies; an Idaho Humanities Council Research Grant; an NEH Collaborative Research Grant to direct the Selway-Bitterroot History Project, now housed at the University of Idaho; and she has twice held the Buchanan Distinguished Professor position in the WSU English Department. Lee has also been an artist resident at the Arctic Circle Artist Residency in the International Territory of Svalbard and at the Women’s Studio Workshop in New York.

This event was made possible with funding from the Lynn W. Day Endowment.