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Introduction to Literature and the Environment (283-0-01)


Laurie J Shannon
847 4913643
University Hall Room 214

Tristram Nash Wolff

Meeting Info

University Hall 102: Mon, Wed 12:30PM - 1:50PM

Overview of class

How is it that the natural world has seemed to writers across time as both comforting and terrifying, a pastoral refuge or a dark threat? How have literary myths of a "green world" spurred us to think about what precisely separates "the human" from other worlds around us? Are humans a part of nature or an exception to it? How do our ideas about nature impose distinct worlds, with distinct rules and rights, on humans, nonhumans, and the places we cross paths, sometimes without knowing it? Tracking these questions through literary forms ranging from Edenic stories and origin myths to Shakespearean drama, Romantic poetry, the modernist novel, and science fiction, students in this course will unearth the unexamined grounds of "green" thought as it appears in literary environments (as well as film, mass media, and the popular imagination). The course will give students an introduction to the "environmental humanities" and a deep dive into the storied concept of "nature," while offering an unusual and broad background on classic literary themes of belonging, justice/ethics, freedom, wilderness, and the everyday.

Learning Objectives

Gain familiarity with key terms and concepts in the emerging interdisciplinary area of the environmental humanities.
Seek to discover the blindspots and purposes of a given text's version of what is "natural."
Learn to balance the study of rhetoric in literary texts with the study of natural environments in a variety of contexts.
Work individually and in groups to develop college-level close readings of literary texts, with attention to the ways language, literature, and aesthetic production shape ideas about nature.
Develop college-level literary arguments supported by textual evidence. Write college-level analytical papers, unfolding claims in clear, well-structured prose.

Teaching Method

Lecture and seminar style participation.

Evaluation Method

Class participation, short response papers, and an in class exam.

Class Materials (Required)

Texts and films may include the following (some readings and all films will be directly supplied by the instructors; required texts will be available at Norris Bookstore):

William Shakespeare, As You Like It(1599; The Pelican Shakespeare Series, ed. Frances Dolan; ISBN-10: ‎ 0143130234 / ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0143130239)

William Shakespeare, King Lear (The Pelican Shakespeare Series, ed. Stanley Wells; ISBN-10: ‎0143128558 / ISBN-13: ‎9780143128557)

Dorothy Wordsworth, Grasmere Journal (1798-1803; Oxford Classics, ISBN ‎0199536872)

John Clare, selected poems (material to be supplied)

Virginia Woolf, Flush (1933; Oxford Classics, ISBN 9780199539291)

Ursula Le Guin, "Vaster Than Empires and More Slow"(1971; material to be supplied)

Harryette Mullen, Urban Tumbleweed (2013; Graywolf Press, ISBN 1555976565)

Grizzly Man (2005, dir. Werner Herzog)

• WALL-E (2008, dir. Andrew Stanton)

Class Attributes

Literature and Arts Foundational Discipline
Literature & Fine Arts Distro Area

Associated Classes

DIS - University Hall 118: Fri 12:00PM - 12:50PM

DIS - Parkes Hall 224: Fri 12:00PM - 12:50PM

DIS - University Hall 312: Fri 1:00PM - 1:50PM

DIS - Parkes Hall 224: Fri 1:00PM - 1:50PM