You are here

C LIT 596 A: Special Studies In Comparative Literature

Re-Valuing Nature: Environmental Humanities in the 21st Century (C.E.)

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
Location: 
THO 331
SLN: 
11866
Instructor:
Gary Handwerk

Syllabus Description:

Course Syllabus: English 556/Comparative Literature 596

Nature R Us: Environmental Humanities in the 21st Century

 

Winter 2016                                                     Professor Gary Handwerk

Tu/Th 3:30-5:20                                               Office: A-402 Padelford

Thomson 331                                                   Phone: 543-2183

e-mail: handwerk@u.washington.edu              Office Hours: Thur 11 AM-1 PM and by appt.

                                                                       

About the course:

This course is designed as an introduction to the environmental humanities, focusing on ecocriticism as an approach, but also dealing with works from environmental history, environmental ethics and the history of science. Ecocriticism grows in part out of a longstanding critical interest in the topic of nature and its representation in literary texts; it differs in adopting a more contemporary sense of the ecological relations between human beings and the environments they inhabit. We will be surveying some of the critical literature in this field, beginning with selections from two collections of essays that attempt to define the environmental humanities (The Ecocriticism Reader and Uncommon Ground) and Guha’s global history of environmentalism, then looking at three thematic clusters of texts (religion, economics and nature; evolution, empathy and ethics; energy and climate), each cluster including both theoretical and “literary” sorts of texts (Robinson Crusoe, On the Origin of Species, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Arctic Dreams, and Forty Signs of Rain). Advanced undergraduates interested in this area of study are welcome in the course; contact instructor for further information.

Our focus will be historical, emphasizing: 1) modern (i.e., from 1700 on) ideas about nature and 2) the origins, the intellectual logics behind, and the ideological implications of those ideas. The role for the humanities in environmental debates, I would argue, revolves around their value for exploring a fairly simple question—whether we, individually and collectively, care about specific and identifiable aspects of the world we inhabit. The humanities also have a role is in assessing the adequacy of specific understandings of nature, whether they seem appropriate or sufficient to contribute in a meaningful way to the resolution of the environmental problems we face. In addition, the humanities play a central role in grasping the historical genealogies of those understandings, as well as their future prospects, exploring questions of how ecological concern might be fostered, enhanced and redirected, and the specific roles that literary texts and literary modes of interpretation might play in that regard.

 So our focus will be literary-critical as well, reflecting upon how literary texts (“literary” construed quite broadly) deal with the environment, i.e., how such texts represent nature, how they present environmental issues, and why it matters that these issues are represented in this form.   As we read them, it is important to remember that literary texts (like theoretical or scientific texts, for that matter) are not simply descriptive accounts of how particular authors see the world. All of them are acts of persuasion, implicit arguments about how we should think and feel and behave that are often all the more effective for the implicitness of their positions. Such texts play an important role in how particular societies think about environmental issues; they help shape the deep base of beliefs and values that frame political debates about public policies. So we’ll be spending a lot of time discussing what it means to read texts—literary or not—well in a literary sense. Most kinds of discourse make extensive use of “literary” strategies, deploying narrative, imagery, allegory, and other elements typical of literature to help them achieve their rhetorical purposes. It is rare that scientific expertise proves to be the sole determining factor even for what one might construe as scientific issues—the reality of global warming, for instance, or the decision on whether to protect a specific endangered species. It is even rarer for politicians or bureaucrats…or even scientists…to refrain from the slanting of perspective that rhetoric can provide (as in the renaming of global warming as “climate change”). Learning how to diagnose such distortions is a key skill of an informed citizenry.

This will be a reading-intensive, rather than writing-intensive class, but coursework will include a few short papers on primary texts, as well as multiple oral presentations and a final synthetic essay. And I do taking writing very seriously as a key piece of assessing your thoughtful assimilation of the course texts. Everyone will submit a pair of short analytical essays early in the quarter, a third “free choice” analytical essay, and a final synthetic paper at the end. I encourage you to see me at any time with questions you may have about specific assignments or anything else related to the class.

 

Course Requirements:

1) Regular attendance and participation are, of course, taken for granted in a graduate seminar. I will expect you to have read and to have thoughtful questions and comments to make about whatever material we are dealing with on a specific day. On most class days, two of you will be specifically responsible for initiating discussion of that day’s texts.

 2) Analytical Essays: Everyone will be responsible for submitting two short papers early in the quarter—1-page, single-spaced, no-margin critical essays on McPhee and Defoe—as well as a third similar essay on a text of your choice from later in the quarter.

3) “What is Ecocriticism” Final Synthetic Paper: 10-12 page, double-spaced paper; details tba.

 

Graded Work:

 Attendance, participation                                  -- 10% of final grade

McPhee and Defoe essays                                -- 10% of final grade each; 20% total

Free choice essay                                             -- 10% of final grade

Oral Presentations (4)                                       -- 20% of final grade

Final essay                                                        -- 40% of final grade

 

Texts:

 All texts for the course are available at the University Book Store, except for the course photocopy packet, which is at Ram Copy and Print (4144 University Avenue).

 

 *********************************************************************************************************************************************

Course Calendar:

 

January 5          --         Course Introduction: Framing the Issues (Bruno Latour, Face à Gaia)

January 7          --         Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic” (PC); Ramachandra Guha, Environmentalism: A Global History (Ch. 1-3, 1-43)

 

January 12        --         Ecocriticism: An Overview (Cheryll Glotfelty, “Introduction” to The Ecocriticism Reader; Greg Garrard, “Positions” chapter from Ecocriticism (PC); Glen Love, “Re-valuing Nature” (ER 225-40); John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid, Part 1: “A Mountain”)

January 14        --         William Cronon, “Introduction: In Search of Nature” and “The Trouble with Wilderness” (Uncommon Ground); Sue Ellen Campbell, “The Land and Language of Desire” (ER 124-36); Guha (Ch. 4, 44-58); McPhee, Part 2: “An Island”

 

JANUARY 16             MCPHEE ESSAY DUE (midnight, via e-mail)

 

January 19        --         Religion, Economics and Nature: Lynn White, “The Historic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” (ER 3-14); Berry, “Faustian Economics” (PC); Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (43-128 in Broadview edition)

January 21        --         Robinson Crusoe (129-201)

 

January 26        --         Robinson Crusoe (202-304)

January 28        --         Carolyn Merchant, “Reinventing Eden” (UG 132-59); Rob Nixon, “Introduction” from Slow Violence (PC); Evan Berry, Devoted to Nature (selections: handout)

 

JANUARY 30--          CRUSOE ESSAY DUE (midnight, via e-mail)

 

February 2       --         Evolution, Empathy, Ethics: Darwin, On the Origin of Species (selections)

February 4       --         Darwin cont.; Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

 

February 9       --         Androids cont.; James Phelan, “How We Evolve” (PC)

February 11     --         Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams (selections)

 

February 16     --         Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams

February 18     --         Arctic Dreams; Lopez, “Landscape and Narrative” (PC); Silko, “Landscape, History and the Pueblo Imagination” (ER 265-74)

 

February 23     --         Energy and Climate: Stephen Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming

February 25     --         Kim Stanley Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain

 

February 29     --         Ursula Heise, Sense of Place, Sense of Planet (Intro, Ch. 1, 4, Concl)

March 2           --         Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain

 

March 7           --         Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain; Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses” (PC); Santorum and “Greening of Religion” essays (PC)

March 9           --         Course Wrap-Up; COP 21

 

March 16         --         FINAL PAPER DUE

********************************************************************

 

Principles of Prose Analysis

(Or, What Good Readers of Narrative and Non-fictional Prose Read For)

 I:   Principle of Narrative Economy—“Every Word Matters”

II: Principle of Narrative Juxtaposition—“Location, Location, Location”

III: Principle of Narrative Coherence—“Everything Fits…But Some Things Fit Better Than Others”

IV: Principle of Narrative Completeness—“Now You See It…Now You Don’t”

 

********************************************************************

Additional Details:

This course is designed as an introduction to the environmental humanities, focusing on ecocriticism as an approach, but also dealing with works from environmental history, ethics, economics, epidemiology, climatology and other areas.  Ecocriticism grows in part out of a longstanding critical interest in the topic of nature and its representation in literary texts; it differs in adopting a more contemporary sense of the ecological relation between human beings and the environments they inhabit.  We will be surveying some of the critical literature in this field, beginning with selections from two collections of essays that attempt to define the field (The Ecocriticism Reader and Uncommon Ground), then looking at several topical areas (economics, religion, evolution, ecology, toxicity and climate), both through the lens of critical analyses and “literary” sorts of texts: Robinson Crusoe, On the Origin of Species, A Sand County Almanac, and Arctic Dreams.  This will be a reading-intensive, rather than writing-intensive class, but coursework will include a series of short papers on the primary texts, as well as written/oral group research projects (one small, one larger) on critical literature.  Advanced undergraduates interested in this area of study are welcome in the course; contact instructor for further information.

 

w/ ENGL 556B

Catalog Description: 
Offered occasionally by visiting or resident faculty. Course content varies.
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:12pm
Share