Reading & Composition
Ecology Without Nature? What is Environmental Literature?
This course takes its title from Timothy Morton’s book Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics, where Morton is one of several scholars who call for the abandonment of the term “nature” in environmental discourse. In this class we will discuss the concept of “nature” and its problematic status, both as an object of representation and in how we conceive of our relationship to the environment. While remaining attuned to the complexities of using nature as a term, we will engage with various kinds of literary productions, paying close attention to the ways in which they make “nature” and ecological relations intelligible for us through their form and language. We will then ask to what extent “nature” remains a useful term for conceptually organizing our relationship to other living beings and the environment. What kind of perception does having an ecologically conscious mind call for, and how might the kind of attention required in the study of poetry or a long novel be similar or different? Further lines of inquiry will include the relationship between “nature” and culture; the status of sensorial perception in calling awareness to environmental problems; issues concerning the movement between local and global awareness; literary tourism and the depiction of rural workers; the ways in which human powers are portrayed relative to the world; the role of the imagination in writing about place and community. Readings may draw from the works of Emerson, Thoreau, Blake, Hugo, William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, Marvell, Clare, Rousseau, Dickinson, Neruda, and Kincaid, in addition to the films Blade Runner and Take Shelter.
This course is designed to help students develop critical thinking, writing, and oral expression skills that are applicable beyond the domain of literary studies. Students will learn how to develop interesting analytical arguments by refining their ideas through the drafting and revision of three essays. Short writing assignments will also be required in order to help facilitate thinking about the course’s material. Since this is a discussion-based course, a strong emphasis will be placed on active student participation in class.