**”Imaging the Prairie, Then and Now”**

Walt Whitman called the prairie “America’s characteristic landscape.” Since Whitman’s day the actual prairie ecosystem has suffered greatly from shortsighted exploitation. Nevertheless, this landscape has left an indelible mark upon the nation’s larger cultural identity, a mark that remains with us to this day. Exploring the origins of this imagined prairie in a selection of key works of early American literature, Matthew Wynn Sivils will discuss how the prairie landscape functioned as a challenge to European-American conceptions of the land, while it at the same time became a defining emblem of the American experience. This event will be held at the Brunnier Art Museum’s exhibit of Iowa artist Ellen Wagener’s landscapes, and following the presentation a tour of Wagener’s work will be provided by Museum staff.