This course explores the idea of American nature writing from a variety of perspectives. We will read traditional and contemporary examples of nature writing in order to examine the ways in which this genre—and its cultural function—has changed with our increased awareness of the influence of humans on the non-human world.
At the heart of our exploration lie such questions as: What does it mean to represent the non-human world through language? What role do language and literature play in our understanding of the relationship between humans and our physical environment? What do cultural texts (literature, film, visual art, etc.) reveal about this relationship and how it has changed over history? Why has traditional nature writing been so dominated by white voices, and what perspectives do other voices offer? How have more recent writers challenged traditional paradigms of the human/nature relationship through writing?
Our reading and discussion will be complemented by regular writing, through which we will analyze various writers’ responses to the natural world. At the same time, we will write about our own experiences of and insights about the world around us. Written projects will include keeping an informal journal and writing both analytical and creative essays (or combinations both). Significant time will be spent outside the classroom.