Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



Most readers of books and essays written by Sigurd Olson (1899-1982) would label him as a nature writer. A man who lived along the border between Ontario and Minnesota in the expanse of clear waterways and thick forests of the Quetico-Superior, Olson was indeed a nature writer, but he was also a writer of frontier literature, for his works possess many characteristics of that genre. Furthermore, his attitudes regarding the frontier evolved considerably throughout his career, and that evolution can be traced throughout his writings. He began his writing career by celebrating frontiers and writing about his explorations of them but, as he aged, he began to discover problems in such thinking. In his later works, he began to question both his and the United States' frontiering pasts. The purpose of this thesis, then, is to highlight the characteristics of frontier literature in Olson's works, and to illustrate how his attitudes toward the frontier changed. I first provide biographical information about Olson followed by an explanation some of the main characteristics of frontier literature. The next three chapters address three rather distinct periods in Olson's writing career--early, middle, and late. Included in the early works are the pre-Singing Wilderness works, most of which are gathered in Mike Link's edited collections. The fourth chapter addresses Olson's first four books: The Singing Wilderness; Listening Point: The Lonely Land; Runes of the North. The fifth chapter examines Of Time and Place, Reflections from the North Country, Open Horizons. In the final chapter, I offer a conclusion and suggestions for further study.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Olson, Sigurd F., 1899-1982 -- Criticism and interpretation

Frontier and pioneer life in literature

Nature in literature



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright