ENGL 380

Literature and the Environment

This course explores the development of environmental writing in texts by British and American authors, with an emphasis on twentieth-century fiction and poetry. Covering a wide range of geographical settings and literary genres, the class examines each text as an argument for a particular "reading" of the environment, and it further inquires about real-world consequences of that reading. Writers covered include Thoreau, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Leslie Silko; the end of the semester focuses on texts of the Pacific Northwest by Ken Kesey, Ernest Callenbach, and Denise Levertov. This course addresses questions of both historical and topical importance: How pervasive is the Romantic vision of nature today? Is it useful or even possible to speak of "nature" as separate from human activity? How have the twentieth century's many wars affected not only the environment but our understanding of it? Finally, what does environmental literature have to add to current scholarship on race, class, and gender?