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.
Lightning Presentation (10%)
Critical Response (20%)
Final Project: (40%)
Assignment details are linked to each title.
Course Info and Classroom:
ENG 361, ENG 661, and ENV 305:
MW 12:30-1:45, Tribble Room A208
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 without masks.
Schedule of Readings and Assignments
Weeks 1 & 2: Introductions & Ralph Waldo Emerson
August 22: In class: Introductions
In class: Syllabus and Assignments
August 24: Emerson, Nature, excerpts
August 29: Emerson, Nature, excerpts
Emerson, "The Young American," excerpts
Emerson; Natural History of the Intellect, excerpts
"Giving Emerson the Boot"
Weeks 2 & 3: Henry David Thoreau
August 31: Thoreau, Walden, “Economy," “Where I Lived"
September 5: Labor Day
September 7: Thoreau, Walden, “Higher Laws, “Conclusion”
Week 4: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way
September 12: Thoreau, “Walking,” 71-122
September 14: Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier"
“U.S. Expansion and its Consequences,”
Oxford Handbook of American Indian History
Week 5: John Muir
September 19: John Muir, Essential Muir, 3-83
Discuss Podcast Assignment
September 21: John Muir, Essential Muir, 87-126
“Environmentalism’s Racist History”
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 19: Discuss Podcast Assignment
September 20: Topic & Group Preference Forms Due
September 26: Kline, First Along the River
Discuss Conservation and Preservation
Discuss Research and Scholarly Sources
September 28: Brief Proposals Due; Project Group Meetings
October 3: Introduction to Podcasting with Brianna Derr
October 5: Work-in-Progress Presentations to get ideas from the class
October 10: Draft Workshop
October 12: Group Meetings to go over your projects
October 15: Projects Due
Week 9: Hurricane Katrina and Environmental Justice
TBD: Film Screening of Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke, Part I
October 17: Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina, 1-70
October 19: Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina, 71-123
Week 10: Oil and Climate Change
October 24: Stephanie LeMenager, Living Oil: Petroleum Culture, 3-19, 102-141.
October 26: “Oil Stories” by Tim Gautreaux, Joanna Kavenna, and Mohammed Hasan Alwan
Week 11: Standing Rock
October 31: Estes and Dhillon, Standing with Standing Rock, selections.
Week 11-15: Final Projects: Digital Essays for environmentaldestruction.org
October 31: Go over assignment and strategies for successful digital essays.
November 2: Group Meetings: Go over research and framing ideas
November 7: Group Meetings: Go over proposals
November 9: Narrative Workshop: Pitch your ideas to the class
November 14: Tech Workshop: How to use Adobe Rush
November 16: Script Workshop: Share you draft with other groups
November 21: Group Meetings: Go over final questions
November 23: No Class; Thanksgiving Break
November 28: Draft Workshop
November 30: Conclusions & Evaluations
December 8: Projects Due
December 10: Reflective Writing Due