Our analytical focus for this course will be upon how literature deals with the environment, i.e., how literary texts represent nature and how they present environmental issues, and why it matters that these issues be represented in this form. How, that is, do the ways we imagine ourselves within the places where we live affect who we are? How do literary texts impact this understanding? What kinds of social, cultural and political work do literary texts and forms perform? This will not be a course on nature writing or on social science/public policy issues, although our concerns will intersect with both of those perspectives. Instead, we will be studying how particular aesthetic and rhetorical elements get used by different authors to shape our attitudes toward nature and the environment —with “environment” broadly construed as a category that encompasses the whole set of interactions that we as individuals and members of groups have with the physical and social landscapes around us.
English 302 is a course with a focus upon methodology as well, meant as a second-stage introduction to the English major. We will be analyzing a set of fictional and non-fictional texts, many of them narratives—so we’ll be taking up general issues of narrative theory. We will also be reading some theoretical texts that provide context for contemporary discussion of the environment, including scientific texts, ecocriticism, environmental ethics and environmental history.
Texts: John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid (ISBN 0-374-51431-3); Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (ISBN 0-345-32649-0); Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (ISBN 978-1-55111-935-9); Philip Appleman, Darwin: Norton Critical Edition (ISBN 0-393-95849-3); Octavia Butler, Wild Seed (ISBN 978-0-446-67697-7); William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (ISBN 0-679-73217-9); Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams (ISBN 0-375-72748-5); plus photocopy reading packet