Ecology & Film

Professor: Iris Ralph
Institution: Tamkang University, Tamsui, Taiwan
Course Number: 6450

SYLLABUS for SEMESTER 2 (Spring 2010)

*Please note: this is a provisional syllabus. The class meeting time and class location may change. Also, some of the course content may be amended or revised.


Class:                           Ecology & Film (Elective)

Class meeting times:      Monday 6:10-8:00 pm

Class location:              Room 605, Ching-shen Memorial Building (T)

Required text:                Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country (1948, 2003)

Assignments/grading:    Oral/written presentation (25%)

Class participation (25%)

Mid-semester exam (25%)

Final semester exam (25%)



In this semester, we will continue to learn about animal rights, part of the concern of environmental rights. We will make one or two small excursions to local vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Danshui to find out what kinds of foods are served there and why many people in Taiwan are or choose to be vegetarians and vegans. We will view aYouTube video clip, KentuckyFriedCruelty, which is about the enormous suffering caused to animals by the fast food industry in the United States and about habits of food consumption in globalised economies, including Taiwan’s. Time permitting, we will view the film Fast Food Nation,which implicitly criticises the fast food industry in the United States for the industry’s exploitation of its workers, its use of hundreds of chemical ingredients to make fast food taste and smell good, and its questionable practices of meat production. Also, we will view and discuss The Cove, a film about the dolphin trade, in the context of learning more about animal rights and ecotourism, another important area of environmental rights.

As we learned last semester, although distinctions between ecogenic environments and anthropogenic environments do not always hold up, we can think of ecogenic environments generally as places that are not made by humans, and anthropogenic environments generally as places that are indelibly shaped, constructed or radically altered by humans. As part of our goal to understand the ecogenic environments that support or profoundly shape our identities as humans, including our local, political and cultural identities, we will visit Danshui’s ecogenic Guanyin Mountain. We will interview long time residents about what they know of the mountain and its environmental history, and why it is so-named, and we will spend an afternoon or morning on the mountain collecting trash (mostly discarded plastic bags and containers) towards the goal of learning more about practical ways of becoming involved in local community environmental sustainability efforts.

Also as we learned last semester, postcolonial arguments and environmental justice arguments (sometimes called eco-marxist arguments) are part of the concern of environmental rights and the discipline of ecocriticismWe will continue the work that we embarked on in the first semester (Fall 2009). Our objective is to learn more about humans’ interactions with, dependence on, and sometimes defense of, ecogenic environments. We will view two films:Trashed, a documentary about waste and the highly lucrative landfill industry in the U.S.A., and Up the Yangtze, a documentary that questions the building of the largest hydroelectric project in history—the Three Gorges River Dam—and the project’s displacement or loss of countless local human and nonhuman communities. Near the end of this semester, we also will view the film Disgrace, an adaptation of the novel Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (which we read last semester). Also, in keeping with learning about animal rights and environmental justice arguments in the context of South Africa, we will read Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country (1948), a classic writing of environmental justice. We will view, too, a relatively recent film adaptation of the novel.



Week 1 / February 22    Introduction

Week 2 / March 1          KentuckyFriedCruelty

Week 3 / March  8         Film The Cove

Week 4 / March 15        cont. The Cove

Week 5 / March 22        Film Up the Yangtze

Week 6 / March 29        cont. Up the Yangtze

Week 8 / April  5           Make-up class/excursion to Guanyin Mountain, Ancestor Memorial Day/Tomb Sweeping Day

Week 9 / April 12          Review for mid-semester exam

Week 10 / April 19        No class (makeup class on 5 April)


Week 11 / April 26      MID-SEMESTER EXAM

Week 12 / May 3           Film Trashed

Week 13 / May 10         cont. Trashed

Week 14 / May 17         Film Disgrace

Week 15 / May 24         cont. Disgrace

Week 16 / June 7           Film Cry, The Beloved Country

Week 17 / June 14         cont. Cry, The Beloved Country

Week 18 / June 21       FINAL SEMESTER EXAM