Responding to Environmental Literature
What do you do after you finish a book? Environmental literature is frequently written with the hope that its readers will act—will be moved to live differently—and yet nothing about literary works guarantees those outcomes. Students in this course will bring their reading of various essays, plays, novels, and poems into dialogue with lecture content about reader-oriented theories of literary analysis to explore how we form and act upon expectations about literary texts. A critical component of these conversations will include who the readers of environmental literature have often been assumed to be—along with if, how, and when such expectations matter. Overall, the course aims to clarify for students their own relationship to environmental texts, with the intention that this self-knowledge is a path to a more optimistic and community-oriented outlook for engaging environmental issues. Texts in the class will range widely from a play by Cherríe Moraga to Felix Salten’s Bambi: A Life in the Woods.
Prior knowledge about environmental issues is welcome but not required. Through the work of reading and writing, non-majors can expect to develop interview skills as well as qualitative analysis skills applicable to analyzing responses beyond literary study. The course will offer frameworks for thinking about diversity and participation that may particularly interest those studying environmental movements. Finally, the course will interest English majors who are interested in pursuing either environmental literature as a subfield or reader-oriented theoretical approaches.