A native of the Pacific Northwest, Ann Ronald was born in 1939. She migrated to the high desert of Northern Nevada in 1970 to take a teaching position in the Department of English at the University of Nevada, Reno following completion of her PhD in Victorian literature at Northwestern University. In addition to teaching for more than three decades at the university, she also served a stint as dean of the College of Arts and Science.
After establishing herself as a major scholar of environmental literature and Western American literature with the publication of The New West of Edward Abbey in 1982—the first book-length study of this iconic and iconoclastic writer of the Southwestern desert—Ronald gradually turned her attention toward her own narrative essays about the American West.
In 1989, Ronald published the essay "Why Don't They Write about Nevada?" in the journal Western American Literature. She responded to her own question with the argument that "No matter what [wilderness writers] write about, it is clear that the human response is key. And if a wilderness is aesthetically inhospitable to man, American nature writers lose interest."
Ronald's collaboration with Utah photographer and writer Stephen Trimble resulted in Earthtones (1995), the elegant collection of Trimble's color photographs and Ronald's lyrical essays depicting the surprises and beauties of the Nevada landscape. Demonstrating that her taste in landscape had evolved since her upbringing in Washington State and that the dry, wild basins and ranges of Nevada could inspire appreciation, Ronald wrote in Earthtones: "Now that I've spent nearly twenty-five years tracking such desert distances, [. . .] I've developed a very different aesthetic eye. [. . .] Too many visitors to the Silver State never see my Great Basin. Or, if they do see it, they don't know how to describe it." Much of Ronald's work seeks to develop strategies to describe underappreciated landscapes, such as those of Nevada.
Following the publication of Earthtones, Ronald expanded her scope as a literary essayist beyond the boundaries of the Nevada landscape. She published GhostWest: Reflections Past and Present in 2002, and Oh, Give Me a Home: Western Contemplations in 2006. In 2003, she published a collection of her recent scholarly essays—including "Why Don't They Write about Nevada?"—in Reader of the Purple Sage: Essays on Western Writers and Environmental Literature.
For her decades of important work as a scholar in the field of ecocriticism and for her several volumes of narrative and reflective writings about the contemporary American West, Ann Ronald received the University of Nevada, Reno's Outstanding Researcher Award in 2005, and was inducted in 2006 into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.
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