Winter 2019 HC 222H: Eco Literature

Winter Term, 2018-2019

Professor: Barbara Mossberg

4.00 credits

CRN 23358: Monday & Wednesday, 08:30 – 09:50 @ CHA 201

Homer sang it, Aesop fabled it, Shakespeare sonneted it, Milton made it epic, Wordsworth gave us our words’ worth: since Gilgamesh scratched it on clay in cuneiform in 2700 BCE, eco literature is a dynamic portrait of human engagement and concern with our world. Whether it is expressed in joy, gratitude, anger, or sorrow, we ask what is at stake in how we represent earth and understand our relation to it?

Our class takes up writing that turns our heads upwards, brings us to our knees, inspires us to climb and leap, make and break laws, save savannahs, wage war and peace, fight for civil rights, declare love, and try to preserve our earth. In the study of literature of our environment, we marvel at the fanged, the fierce, the lofty, the flowing. We rejoice at weeds and spiders. We despair at what is lost. We ponder icons of the foundational and modern environmental movement, including Emerson, Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, and the poetry of Wordsworth, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Burns, William Cullen Bryant, Emily Dickinson, Joyce Kilmer, and Pablo Neruda, and contemporaries such as Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, W.S. Merwin, Alicia Ostriker, Story Musgrave, Wangari Maathai, and others.

We’ll note how leaders of countries and organizations and courts write about the environment and are influenced by eco literature. We consider American iconic literature in terms of evidence of eco consciousness from pre-colonial to the present, and students have opportunities to research eco lit movements within native American, African American, and multicultural, as well as feminist, perspectives. We take a gander at ancient and classic foundations of eco literature, and we consider how we present our world to our children.

In the process of asking, how does the human mind conceive and express nature, we are reflecting on how we see: such exploration reveals a consciousness and conscience for what it means to be human. In asking what is at stake in how we see for the fate of humanity and our common earth--we ponder literature's role in how we value our environment. From works narrated by pigs and dogs and elephants, to Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, students select examples of contemporary and modern eco lit classics for an eco literature review organized around your own major and career and life interests. We’ll research environmental topics, causes, and issues in terms of how writers address and shape them for the public conscience, produce iconic plays and examine their eco significance, preview a work in progress of a drama musical on trees, engage with local and regional eco-writers, create an original “poet-tree slam,” and your own eco-lit journal as well as "eco-crit" as both creator and critic. Class will include field trips on and off campus, including to our own Walden Pond, yes, in the early morning, as dawn rises.