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Environmental Destruction:

An Introduction to the Environmental Humanities

What can the humanities teach us about our current environmental crisis? This question is at the heart of the “environmental humanities,”          which consider the ways that humans are entangled in a world with plants, animals, and other “things” that are framed as “natural resources.”

“Environmental Destruction” will focus on the ideological causes, palpable effects, and imagined futures linked to humans' destruction of our environments. In addition to one traditional paper you'll produce podcasts on the history of early conservation or preservation efforts and  digital essays that introduce pressing environmental problems by situating them in a longer historical, literary, and cultural context. 

Course Texts

Additional readings are posted on Canvas.


Assignment details are linked to each title.

Course Schedule and Classrooms:
Section A
: MW 5:00-6:30, A202, Tribble
Section B: MW 12:45-2, Room 1505, Wake Downtown
Section C: MW 2:15-3:30, Room 1505, Wake Downtown

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

Weeks 1 & 2: Introductions & Ralph Waldo Emerson

August 28:  In class: Introductions

                    In class: Syllabus and Assignments

August 30: Emerson, Nature, excerpts

September 4: Labor Day

September 6: Emerson, Nature, excerpts

                    Emerson, "The Young American," excerpts

                    Emerson; Natural History of the Intellect, excerpts

                    "Giving Emerson the Boot"

Weeks 3:  Henry David Thoreau 

September 11: Thoreau, Walden, “Economy," “Where I Lived"

September 13: Thoreau, Walden, “Higher Laws, “Conclusion”

                        “Pond Scum: Thoreau’s Moral Myopia”

See Course Policies and Campus Resources here.
  • To learn about the history and genres of environmental literature 

  • To situate that literature within a number of relevant contexts

  • To improve close reading skills

  • To conduct research and engage with primary sources 

  • To produce, support, and revise argumentative essays

  • To apply your thinking about literature and history to contemporary environmental issues

  • To consider and practice sharing information with both peer and public audiences

  • To share and collaboratively develop ideas about literature, environmental issues, and your own writing

Learning Outcomes   

Week 4:  Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way

September 18:  Thoreau, “Walking,” 71-122   

September 20:  Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier"

                          “U.S. Expansion and its Consequences,”

                          Oxford Handbook of American Indian History

Week 5:  John Muir

September 25: John Muir, Essential Muir, 3-83

                           Discuss Podcast Assignment 

September 27: John Muir, Essential Muir, 87-126

                          “Environmentalism’s Racist History”

                           Podcast Topics & Preference Forms Due

Weeks 6-8: Preservation and Conservation Podcasts

September 25: Discuss Podcast Assignment

September 27: Topic & Group Preference Forms Due

October 2: Kline, First Along the River

    Discuss Conservation and Preservation 

                          Discuss Research and Scholarly Sources

October 4: Brief Proposals Due; Project Group Meetings

October 9: Introduction to Podcasting with Brianna Derr

October 11: No Class: Fall Break

October 16: Work-in-Progress Presentations to get ideas from the class 

October 18: Draft Workshops 

October 20: Projects Due 

Week 9:  Hurricane Katrina and Environmental Justice

TBD: Film Screening of Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke, Part I

October 23: Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina, 1-70

October 25: Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina, 71-123

Week 10: Oil and Climate Change

October 30: Stephanie LeMenager, Living Oil: Petroleum Culture, 3-19, 102-141.

November 1: “Oil Stories” by Tim Gautreaux, Joanna Kavenna, and Mohammed Hasan Alwan

Week 11: Standing Rock 

November 6: Estes and Dhillon, Standing with Standing Rock, introduction 

                       AWAKE: A Dream from Standing Rock 

Week 11-15: Final Projects​: Digital Essays for

November 6: Go over assignment and strategies for successful digital essays.
November 8: Group Meetings: Go over research and framing ideas

November 13: Group Meetings: Go over proposals
November 15: Narrative Workshop: Pitch your ideas to the class
November 20: Tech Workshop: How to use Adobe Rush
November 22: No Class; Thanksgiving Break

November 27: Script Workshop: Go over your drafts 

November 29: Group Meetings: Go over final questions
December 4: Draft Workshop 

December 6: Conclusions & Evaluations

December 11: Projects Due

December 12: Reflective Writing Due

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