Greening America

We will consider how a range of American writers frame human interactions with “Nature,” and explore their various representations of the natural world. How have cultural values shaped conceptions of nature? How has “Wilderness” been imagined? How do authors construct language to shape the way readers think about the environment? What vision do these texts offer about the relationship of individuals to society, and about progress, industrialism, and technology?

As a multi-disciplinary course, we will ask: What occurs when findings from Natural History are combined with notions from Literary Transcendentalism and Romanticism? We will examine Native American stories, early accounts of natural history, diverse representations of flora and fauna, memoirs of the local, essays on urban nature, and narratives of exploration. “Nature Writing,” often combines rhapsody and science and runs the gamut of the scientific, philosophical, psychological, aesthetic, ethical, and spiritual.

We will consider authors such as Gilbert White, William Bartram, John James Audubon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, John Burroughs, Rachel Carson, Ernest Thompson Seton, Leslie Marmon Silko, Joseph Bruchac, Julia Butterfly Hill, Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, and Terry Tempest Williams. In this class you will construct essays based upon the course readings, your own observations, and your classmates’ presentations. The texts we will analyze directly consider the relationship between human beings and their environments over a range of diverse habitats and places, from deserts to rainforests to Alaska, to dorm rooms and malls and cityscapes. Many species and natural phenomena are represented.

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