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.
Emerson and Thoreau, Nature & "Walking"
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
John Muir, Essential Muir
Benjamin Kline, First Along the River
Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina
Stephanie LeMenager, Living Oil
Estes and Dhillon, Standing with Standing Rock
Additional readings are posted on Canvas.
Course Schedule and Classrooms:
Section F: MW 12:45-2, Room 1616, Wake Downtown
Section G: MW 2:15-3:30, Room 1616, Wake Downtown
Section H: MW 5 to 6:15, Room 209, Tribble
A brief note on learning in the present moment:
We’re all working in the midst of a prolonged state of emergency, I understand that. This is a time for empathy, this is a time for flexibility, and my goal is not to police your learning but to create the best environment I can for enabling you to learn. If you find that you are in crisis, I will work with you.
I ask, in turn, that you be aware of the very real possibility that we may have to shift to online learning. If that is the way things develop I'm prepared to pivot, and we'll meet as a full class on Mondays but in discussion or project groups on Wednesdays.
For the time being, however, we'll be in person with masks.
Schedule of Readings and Assignments
Weeks 1 & 2: Introductions & Ralph Waldo Emerson
August 23: In class: Introductions
In class: Syllabus and Assignments
August 25: Emerson, Nature, excerpts
August 30: Emerson, Nature, excerpts
Emerson, "The Young American," excerpts
"Giving Emerson the Boot"
Weeks 2 & 3: Henry David Thoreau
September 1: Thoreau, Walden, “Economy," “Where I Lived"
September 6: Labor Day
September 8: Thoreau, Walden, “Higher Laws, “Conclusion”
Week 4: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way
September 13: Thoreau, “Walking,” 71-122
September 15: Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier"
Oxford Handbook of American Indian History
Week 5: John Muir
September 20: John Muir, Essential Muir, 3-83
Discuss Podcast Assignment
September 22: John Muir, Essential Muir, 87-126
Podcast Topics & Preference Forms Due
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
Weeks 6-8: Preservation and Conservation Podcasts
September 20: Discuss Podcast Assignment
September 22: Topic & Group Preference Forms Due
September 27: Kline, First Along the River
Discuss Conservation and Preservation
Discuss Research and Scholarly Sources
September 29: Brief Proposals Due; Project Group Meetings
October 4: Introduction to Podcasting with Brianna Derr
October 6: Work-in-Progress Presentations to get ideas from the class
October 13: Draft Workshop
October 16: Projects Due
Week 8: Imagining Extinction; or, The Anthropocene
TBD: Film Screening of James Cameron's Avatar
October 11: Alan Weisman, The World Without Us, 1-46, coda
Week 9: Hurricane Katrina and Environmental Justice
TBD: Film Screening of Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke, Part I
October 18: Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina, 1-70
October 20: Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina, 71-123
Week 10: Oil and Climate Change
October 25: Stephanie LeMenager, Living Oil: Petroleum Culture, 3-19, 102-141.
October 27: “Oil Stories” by Tim Gautreaux, Joanna Kavenna, and Mohammed Hasan Alwan
Week 11-15: Final Projects: Digital Essays for environmentaldestruction.org
November 1: Go over assignment and strategies for successful digital essays.
November 3: Tech Workshop: How to use Adobe Rush
November 8: Group Meetings: Go over research and framing ideas
November 10: Group Meetings: Go over proposals
November 15: Narrative Workshop: Pitch your ideas to the class
November 17: Group Meetings: Go over narrative arc and tech questions November 22: Draft Workshop
November 24: No Class; Thanksgiving Break
November 29: Group Meetings: Go over final questions with me and Brianna
December 1: Conclusions & Evaluations
December 6: Optional Extra Help: Troubleshoot with me and Brianna
December 8: Projects Due
December 10: Reflective Writing Due