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COURSE TITLE: Literature and the Environment: Reading the Creator through Creation
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3 (hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 0)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course engages with the emerging field of ecocriticism, examining literary texts with careful attention to their relationship to the environment. Ecocriticism "takes an earth-centered approach to literary studies" (Glotfelty), and as such, questions of sustainability, ethics, stewardship, and environmental justice will be central to this course. One of the central questions of the course will be how, in particular, the Christian faith shapes an investigation of literature and the environment. The course will consider texts from a range of time periods and geographies, drawing from 18th-century British Romantic Poets, 19th-century American nature writers of prose and poetry, as well as more contemporary Canadian and American authors of both fiction and nonfiction. We will move from a broad tradition of nature writing to a more specific consideration of our own particular time and space.

Prerequisites: ENGL 215
  • Clark, Timothy, The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment
  • Leopold, Aldo, A Sand County Almanac
  • Dillard, Annie, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
  • Maathai, Wangari, Unbowed
  • Gowdy, Barbara, The White Bone
  • Custom Anthology: Other texts listed on schedule will be available on the course Moodle site (indicated by * on the syllabus).
Engagement 10%
Essay 1 (response paper)15%
Class Discussion Questions5%
Annotated Bibliography15%
Essay 2 (research paper)30%
Final Exam 25%
  • Students will gain an understanding of how the term “nature,” and its relation to Christianity, has changed over time.
  • Students will examine the meaning of this relationship in their own lives. 
  • In the service of #1 and #2, students will read and write about literature that represents diverse forms of human engagements with the non-human world and that imagines alternative forms of that engagement.
COURSE OUTLINE: First Day of Class
  • Introductions, Syllabus
Intro to Ecocriticism: Canons and Critical Contexts
  • Clark (1-11), “Introduction”
  • *Buell, Glossary (review the following terms): anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism,ecocentrism, ecocriticism, ecology, environment,environmental justice,environmental writing, nature,nature writing, pastoral, wild
Theological Contexts
  • *Timothy J. Burbery, “Ecocriticism and Christian Literary Scholarship” (from Christianity and Literature Winter 2012)
Defining Ecocriticism: Questions Ecocritics Ask
  • *“Defining Ecocritical Theory and Practice” position papers from Western Lit Assoc. Meeting
  • *“The Questions Posed by Ecocriticism”
Humans and Nature in Conversation
  • Romanticism
    • Clark (13-24), “Romantic and Anti- Romantic,” “Old World Romanticism”
    • *William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” “The World Is Too Much With Us,” “The Tables Turned”
  • Victorian Era
    • *Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur,” “The Windhover” • *Alfred Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam: A.H.H.” stanzas 54-56
  • American Transcendentalism
    • Clark (25-34), “New World Romanticism”
    • *Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”
    • *Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”
    • *Walden, “Conclusion”
Towards a Land Ethic
  • Jean Giono, “The Man Who Planted Trees” (film)
  • Clark (35-45) “Genre and the question of non-fiction”
  • Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1-36)
  • A Sand County Almanac (37-98)
The Fine Art of Paying Attention
  • Clark (143-155) “Science and the Crisis of Authority”
  • Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1-53)
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (222-271)
Environmental Activism
  • Clark (120-129) “Postcolonial Ecojustice”
  • Wangari Maathai, Unbowed (Ch 1-2, pp. 1-52)
  • Unbowed (Ch 3-6, pp. 53-138)
  • Unbowed (Ch 7-10, pp. 139-229)
  • Unbowed (Ch 11-end, pp. 230-313)
  • Clark (77-86) “Thinking like a mountain?”
  • *Rachel Carson, Selections from Silent Spring
  • *Scott Russell Sanders, “Building Arks,” “Wildness”
  • *Sanders, “A Few Earthy Words”
  • *Wendell Berry, “Damage” and “Healing” (essays); “The Peace of Wild Things” (poem)
Animal Voices
  • Clark (179-191), “The Animal Mirror,” “Ethics and the Nonhuman Animal”
  • Margaret Atwood, selections from Survival (359-367 in Greening the Maple)
  • *Barbara Kingsolver, “High Tide in Tucson”
  • *Sid Marty, Selection from The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek
  • Barbara Gowdy, The White Bone (Ch 1-3, pp. 1-46)
  • The White Bone (Ch 4-6, pp. 46-100)
  • The White Bone (Ch 7-9, pp. 100-159)
  • The White Bone (Ch 10-12, pp. 159-230)
  • The White Bone (Ch 13-16, 230-327)
  • “Never Cry Wolf” (film)
Poet Prophets
  • *Mary Oliver, selected poems
  • *Jane Kenyon, “Evening Sun,” “After the Hurricane
  • *Franz Wright, “June Storm,” “The First Supper,” “The New Jerusalem”
  • *Christian Wiman, “Every Riven Thing”
  • *John Glenday, “Two Ravens,” “How to Pray”
  • *David Whyte, “The Journey,” “Everything Is Waiting for You”
Voices of Canada
  • *Northrup Frye, The Bush Garden (3-12 in Greening the Maple)
  • *Margaret Atwood, Survival (13-30 in Greening the Maple)
Native Voices
  • *Jeanette Armstrong, “Land Speaking”
  • *Neal McLeod, “Cree Narratives of Place”
Responding to the Gift
  • *Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass “Preface,” “Skywoman Falling,” “Epilogue”
  • *Sanders, “Living in Hope”

Required texts, assignments, and grade distributions may vary from one offering of this course to the next. Please consult the course instructor for up to date details.

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