Topics will include but not be limited to:
I. Overview of literature and literary genres
A. Definitions of literature
B. Overview of literary genres
C. The genre of environmental literature
1. Definitions and literary scope of the genre
2. The interdisciplinary nature of the genre
II. Major figures in environmental literature
A. Contributions of nonfiction writers: e.g. Henry David Thoreau,
John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Barry Lopez, Annie
Dillard, Wendell Barry, Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams,
N. Scott Momaday
B. Contributions of fiction writers: e.g. Pam Huston, Barry Lopez,
Leslie Marmon Silko
C. Contributions of poets: e.g. Gary Snyder, A.R. Ammons, Mary Oliver
III. Historical patterns and emerging traditions in environmental
A. The pastoral tradition in Greek and Western romantic literature
B. Early American literature: Descriptions of nature and writing
about regions in the 17th and 18th Centuries
C. Thoreau and the birth of the nature essay in the 19th Century
D. Turn-of-the-Century: Extending the Thoreauvian tradition
E. 20th Century renaissance of American environmental nonfiction
1. Literal vs. metaphorical representations of the environment
2. Connections with science, art, history, economics, and policy
3. The concept of Place
4. Movement from egocentrism to ecocentrism
F. Major contributions of women to American environmental literature:
e.g. Susan Cooper, Mary Austin, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Terry
Tempest Williams, Mary Oliver
IV. Similarities and differences in the ways in which literary works of
different cultures have imagined the human relationship to the
A. Oral vs written literary traditions
B. American Indian vs. Western creation stories
C. Conceptions of place in indigenous and Western cultures
D. Cultural perspectives on an "ethical" relationship to the land
V. Ecocriticism: a critical approach to literature and culture
A. Definition of a "critical approach" to literature
B. Overview of other critical approaches: e.g. formalist, historical
deconstruction, psychoanalytic, feminist, reader response
C. Definition of ecocriticism
D. Practice of ecocriticism
VI. Environmental literature and the emerging culture of environmental
A. Ways in which the arts in general and texts in particular both
shape and express values and attitudes towards the natural world
B. Ways in which texts can provoke environmental reflection and practice restorationism
C. Art, advocacy, and activism
Reading assignments may include:
1. Assigned readings from major works of environmental literature
2. Selected essays on environmental literature as a genre
3. Selected essays offering different cultural perspectives on the
4. Selected essays on ecocentrism as a critical approach to literature
Writing assignments may include:
1. A structured reading journal on assigned readings
2. Essay exams covering units of study
3. Analytical essays on assigned works (500-1,000 words)
4. Personal essays in response to assigned works (500-1,000 words)
5. Ecocritical analysis of a text, film, or advertisement
6. Term papers requiring research and MLA documentation (1,500-2,500
7. Original student writing in the genre of environmental literature
Other assignments may include:
1. Group or individual presentations on particular authors, time periods
2. Objective examinations and quizzes
3. Field trips to explore a local ecosystem
4. Group or class project: Based on class readings and personal experience
create a set of ethical and practical
principles (a land ethic) that can serve as a guide for the human relationship to the
The Norton Book of Nature Writing. Ed Robert Finch and John Elder.
W.W. Norton, 2002 or most current edition.
Literature and the Environment. Ed. Lorraine Anderson, Scott Slovic,
And John P. O'Grady. Longman, 1999 (Classic).
The following texts are all classics in the field:
Walden. Henry David Thoreau. Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Prairyerth. William Least Heat-Moon. Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Friend of the Earth. T.C. Boyle. Penguin, 2001.
Walking, Henry David Thoreau. Harper, 1994.
The Mountains of California. John Muir. Penguin, 1985.
The Land of Little Rain. Mary Austin. Penguin, 1997.
Silent Spring. Rachel Carson. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
Sand County Almanac. Aldo Leopold. Ballantine, 1970.
Desert Solitaire. Edward Abbey. Ballantine, 1990.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Annie Dillard. Harper Perennial, 1988.
Turtle Creek. Gary Snyder. New Directions, 1974.
Arctic Dreams. Barry Lopez. Vintage Books, 1986.
New and Selected Poems. Mary Oliver. Beacon Press, 1992.
Refuge. Terry Tempest Williams. Pantheon, 1991.
The Control of Nature. John McPhee. Noonday Press, 1990.
Ceremony. Leslie Marmon Silko. Penguin, 1977.
My Antonia. Willa Cather. Mariner Books, 1995.