Discovering Literature

L111 — Spring 2018

Ballantine Hall 233
Days and Times
2:30-3:45 TR
Course Description

How do literature, art, and media contribute to how we think about the environment? Can writing play a role in environmental change? Over the course of the semester we will think about these questions and others as we read essays, novels, and poetry, and view art, listen to music, and watch films. From literary texts to art and public media, this class will explore how human beings relate to the non-human world they inhabit. Our course texts will be literary, visual, scientific, and natural. We will read ancient texts as well as consider environmental discourse from our own moment. We will work to answer a series of questions about the relationship between the natural world and human beings who have defined and affected that world: How and why do writers represent the non-human world? How do they understand the relations between humans and animals, plants, non-sentient objects, and places? Are humans part of or distinct from nature? What is their responsibility toward it? How does literature represent environmental catastrophe and imagine new futures? In what ways do the discourses of natural science and ecology affect humanistic representations? Readings will include science and nature writing by Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, and many others. Films will likely include Into the Wild (2007), Wall-e (2008), and clips from recent documentaries. Students should expect lively conversation, a series of short reflections, two papers, and several out-of-class excursions. Instructor: Shannon Gayk

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