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the water planet
the san marcos river
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goodbye to a river
john graves
supplemental texts

2006-2007: protest & dissent
2005-2006: courage
2004-2005: hate

2007-2008 CE co-sponsors

The Water Planet: A River Runs Through Us

book | summary | resources

Goodbye to a River
by John Graves


As a theme for the Common Experience, the subject of water has particular relevance for our university. The unique, spring-fed San Marcos River that runs through campus is a constant visual reminder of the many dimensions and roles that water plays in our lives. The nexus of the Common Experience parallels this literal flow: it fosters students' confluent thinking where discovery in one area will lead them to discovery in another.

This year's selection, Goodbye to a River, is the story of John Graves' 1957 canoe journey down the Brazos River. The book is part history, part memoir, and part travellogue. Goodbye to a River, like many Texas narratives, uses the journey for structure, and the journey takes on symbolic significance as well. This journey is a personal process, a trip to recover a wanderer’s sense of history and place. By returning to places that have meaning, the persona-narrator demonstrates how one regains a rootedness that gives life meaning.

Graves explores themes and emotions that evolve from the relationship between humans and the natural world in the context of his trip down the Brazos River: how places have meaning, responsibility, solitude and community, innocence and experience, good and evil, humanity and inhumanity, conservation. Arguably the central theme in much of Graves’ work concerns how humans relate to and find value in nature. The relationship between humans and nature, particularly the significance of rivers, offers a relevant, challenging, and inspiring theme for the Common Experience.

Summary and Analysis of the Book

For detailed information on Goodbye to a River, click here.



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