Few people use Rackham funding for a trip to Disney World, but Gen Creedon did. And to the zoo – fifty of them, in fact. Her research focuses on a comparative literature and cultural study of national parks, zoos and Disney theme parks to consider the history of wonder as it relates to the American relationship with nature. Taking a broad view that moves from early nineteenth-century explorations of the American West to recent trends in zoos and amusement parks, Gen shows relationships to histories of travel and tourism, colonial collective practices, science and technology and magic and spectacle. Her work traces how national parks, zoos and Disney shape ‘experience economies’ that structure Americans’ relationship to nature on national, civic and corporate levels.
Her work is in the realm of environmental humanities, an emerging field, and this has presented challenges, as there aren’t as many leaders in the field to learn from. Gen worked with two departments to create an opportunity to pursue a dissertation that combined them. Her biggest challenges are in “keeping the faith,” leaning on advisors for guidance when there isn’t any direct program or path ahead of her. She says, “At the end of the day, you need to trust in yourself.”
Rackham has provided wonderful interdisciplinary opportunities for study and community. Gen co-founded two Rackham Interdisciplinary Workgroups to provide events, study and dialogue around Animal Studies and Doing Queer Studies Now.
Gen advises a trip to the zoo to experience and appreciate wonder. It’s a quick and easy outing, and she says the Midwest has four of the nation’s best to choose from: Detroit, Toledo, Columbus, and Cleveland.