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.
Schedule for Each Week
Tuesday: meet as a whole group to go over your reading and work for the week. I’ll take questions, and our focus will be on explication, or your understanding of the texts we’re engaging with, along with specific skills.
Thursday: meet in smaller cohorts or “sections” for about 30 minutes each. These meetings will be focused your analysis and critique of the materials that we’re engaging with. You’ll be shaping these discussions.
Saturday: I'll send a five-minute wrap-up video or email with an overview of the ideas from our small-group conversations and an introduction to our next week.
Schedule of Readings and Assignments
Week 1: Introductions
August 27: In class: Introductions
In class: Syllabus and Assignments
Week 2: Ralph Waldo Emerson
September 1: Emerson, Nature
September 3: Emerson, "The Young American"
Emerson; Natural History of the Intellect
"Giving Emerson the Boot"
Week 3: Henry David Thoreau
September 8: Thoreau, Walden, “Economy," “Where I Lived"
September 10: Thoreau, Walden, “Higher Laws, “Conclusion”
Thoreau, Walden, book reviews (380-388)
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.
Week 4: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way
September 15: Thoreau, “Walking,” 71-122
September 17: Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier"
Oxford Handbook of American Indian History
Week 5: John Muir
September 22: John Muir, Essential Muir, 3-83
September 24: John Muir, Essential Muir, 87-126
Week 6-7: Preservation and Conservation Podcasts
September 22: Discuss Podcast Assignment
September 24: Topic & Group Preference Forms Due
September 29: Kline, First Along the River
Discuss research and scholarly sources
October 1: Brief Proposals Due; Group meetings
October 6: Introduction to Podcasting with Brianna Derr
October 8: Group meetings
October 10: Drafts Due; Draft Workshop begins
October 13: Feedback Due; Draft Workshop Ends
October 17: Projects Due
To learn about the history and genres of environmental literature
To situate that literature within a number of relevant contexts
To conduct research and engage with primary sources
To engage with and evaluate literary criticism.
To produce, support, and revise argumentative essays
To apply your thinking about literature and history to contemporary environmental issues
To write differently for peer and public audiences.
To share and collaboratively develop ideas about literature, environmental issues, and your own writing
Week 8: Imagining Extinction; or, The Anthropocene
October 13: Alan Weisman, The World Without Us, 1-46, coda
October 15: Avatar
Week 9: Hurricane Katrina and Environmental Justice
October 19: Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke, Part I
Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina, 1-70
October 21: Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina, 71-123
Week 10: Oil & Climate Change
October 27: Stephanie LeMenager, Living Oil: Petroleum Culture, 3-19, 102-141.
October 29: “Oil Stories” from The Guardian
Week 11-15: Final Projects
November 3: Research Workshop: Meet with librarian
November 5: Group Meetings: Work through questions
November 10: Tech Workshop: How to use Adobe Rush
November 12: Group Meetings: Go over proposals
November 17: Narrative Workshop: Pitch your ideas
November 19: Optional Group Meetings
November 24: Optional Group Meetings
November 26: No Class; Thanksgiving Break
December 1: Optional Group Meetings
Drafts Due; Draft Workshop begins
December 3: Optional Group Meetings
December 4: Feedback Due; Draft Workshop ends
December 11: Projects Due