“I’ve read something like 2000 pages” this semester, said Jessy Lee ‘15. “I’ve never read so much in my life.”

Small wonder—Lee is working on not one, but two independent studies in Environmental Humanities, and the workload is intense. That doesn’t seem to phase her, however—rather, it seems to energize her.

Lee is self-designing a major in Ecological Literacy, in the Environmental Humanities realm. Her two independent studies this semester are designed to give her both a background in narrative as well as in philosophy.

Her first course is with Carol Dickson, Director of Writing Programs and faculty in Environmental Humanities, called “Contemporary Place-Based Literature of New England.”

The readings have been confined to works written in the past thirty years. “It’s nonfiction as well as fiction, essays, and poetry,” said Lee. “It’s writing where the story is shaped by the place.”

Lee is writing responses to her reading and journaling for this class.

Some of the many books Lee read this semester were The Beans of Egypt, Maine; the poetry collection Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey; and Reading the Mountains of Home, by Sterling College Trustee John Elder, Ph.D.

Will she talk with Elder about his work? “I’ve never been around when the trustees are on campus!” she exclaimed. However, she hopes to connect with Elder during the board meeting and commencement in May.

The second course is with Pavel Cenkl Ph.D., Dean of the College and Faculty, and who is also her advisor. The course is entitled “Ecological Philosophy.”

“The plan was to focus on systems thinking and deep ecology,” Lee explained, “although I didn’t get to deep ecology, because I got so wrapped up in the first half.”

The book at the cornerstone of this course is Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind.

“That book,” Lee said, “is blowing my mind.”

The book, Lee explained, is a collection of essays covering topics as varied as anthropology, psychiatry, epistemology, and the then-nascent field of cybernetics.

Cybernetics is a transdisciplinary approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints, and possibilities. Its influences can be felt in fields as varying as robotics, neuropsychology, and the cyberpunk genre of literature.

Lee is currently working on her final paper for the Ecological Philosophy class. “It’s a paper explaining systems thinking and ecological behaviors as a way of understanding imperialism and colonialism,” she explained, and then laughed, “It’s becoming a very long paper.” •


Filed Under: Common Voice Environmental Humanities

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