Professor: Dorothee Kocks
Course Number: History 43SR-1
Mon. and Wed., 4:30-6:30 p.m., AEB 320
In this class, we will explore major themes in human interactions with the U.S.
environment. The main topics include: changing patterns in how physical sustenance has been drawn from nature; religious and political appeals to the natural world; the relationship between nature and “science” or knowledge; and the rise of what are conventionally called environmental movements. Readings are arranged chronologically from the colonial period to the present. Class sessions will regularly include experimental short films to stimulate our thinking about the variety of definitions and uses of “the environment.”
1) Submit a reading journal for the first week — due Wed., June 28.
2) After that, you have three options. Exam option: You may either take exams (a midterm and final) which will ask you to write argumentative essays in response to a choice of questions. Reading journal option: OR you may skip the midterm and elect to continue writing a reading journal of 2- to 3-pages, typed, weekly for the rest of the term; plus the final exam. Personal Essay option: OR you may skip both exams and write two versions of a creative, non-fiction, personal essay. This option requires additional reading which helps to connect the past and the present. See “requirements” hand-out for details on all three options.
You should notify me of your choice, in writing, by the Wednesday of the second week of class (July 5).
Please feel free to choose whichever assignment suits your interests and
ambitions. The personal essay option is the most difficult; I will grade on a more
generous scale to recognize the extra commitment this involves. Each option counts 80% of your final grade. The first week’s reading journal counts 5% of your final grade, with participation making up the remaining 15%.
It will be hard to participate if you’re not there. If you are having trouble arranging your schedule to attend class, please make an appointment with me at your earliest convenience. In general, I expect you to treat this class like a
regularly scheduled work commitment. You must call in sick to be excused; otherwise, arrive on time and come prepared. Conflicts with other commitments
(work or family) are only in very rare instances considered excused. The participation grade will be based on a combination of my evaluation and your self evaluation of your class participation. If you prefer not to speak in class, please come and talk with me during office hours or make an appointment at your convenience. If you start to fall behind for any reason, please arrange an
appointment with me as soon as possible. As a general rule, I do not give
Texts recommended for purchase:
BE SURE TO NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “REQUIRED” AND
“RECOMMENDED” TEXTS. Both are available at the University Bookstore and
are on reserve at Marriott Library:
William Cronon Changes in the Land
Charlotte Perkins Gilman Herland
Robert Gottlieb Forcing the Spring
John McPhee Encounters with the Archdruid
John Opie The Law of the Land
Henry David Thoreau Walden
John Echeverria and Raymond Eby, eds. Let the People Judge: Wise Use
and the Private Property Rights Movement (NOTE: this book is very
expensive. Only purchase if you have a special interest in the topic).
Aldo Leopold Sand County Almanac
Michael Soule and Gary Lease, eds. Reinventing Nature? Responses to
Raymond Williams “Ideas of Nature” (photocopies available at bookstore) Required for “Personal Essay” option
Scott Russell Sanders “The Singular First Person,” in Essays on the Essay (on reserve)
Phillip Lopate “Introduction” in The Art of the Personal Essay ( on reserve)
I am available by appointment often and also have regularly scheduled office hours from 3-4:15 Wednesdays.
History 438: Syllabus
ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE U.S.
Part 1: NATURE AS MATERIAL RESOURCE
Mon. June 26: Prehistory and the “State of Nature”
Wed. June 28: Modernity and the fall from grace
Reading: Cronon, chapters 1-4 and 7-8.
Recommended reading: Nabhan (ch. 6) and Graber (ch. 8) inReinventing
Assignment due: Reading journal, 2- to 3-pages typed. See hand-out.
Monday July 3 no class (July 4 holiday) BUT do watch videos:
“Wilderness Idea” on Marriott Library A-V “reserve”
“Wild by Law” on Marriott Library A-V “reserve”
“Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring” at Marriott Library A-V section under call
number V-cass SB959 R32 1992.
ALL THREE VIDEOS will be shown in a marathon from 4 to 7 p.m., July 3, in room 462 at Marriott. You don’t have to see them at that time; you may check
them out to a video carrel in Marriott some other time that suits you. (Note: the
library is closed July 4). See all three videos before July 12; journal writers should include them by then.
Wednesday July 5: Capitalism and the Environment
Reading: Opie Introduction, chapters 1-7.
Recommended reading: Lavelle (pg. 36-41), Hamilton (pg. 151-157) and
Glendon (pg. 182-190) in L e t the People Judge p lus chapter 11 in Opie.
Due: Notify me in writing today which option you have selected.
Part II: NATURE AS SPIRITUAL RESOURCE
Monday July 10: The Sacred Environment
Wed. July 12: The Religion of Wilderness Appreciation
Reading: Walden Read chapter 1 (Economy), 4 (Sounds), 5 (Solitude), 11
(Higher Laws), and 18 (Conclusion).
Recommended: read entire Walden
Part III: NATURE AS POLITICAL RESOURCE
Mon. July 17: “Natural” orders
Wed. July 19: Nature as Utopia
Reading: Herland (entire)
Recommended reading: Raymond Williams “Ideas of Nature” (read at least
twice) . Photocopies of this essay are available at the bookstore, or the library
Mon. July 24 (pioneer day/off)
Wed. July 26: Midterm exam OR first variation of personal essay due. Those
electing journal and essay options will meet for special discussion section during the regularly scheduled class time.
Part IV: NATURE AS AN INTELLECTUAL RESOURCE
Mon. July 31: The “reality” of nature
Wed. Aug. 2: Scientific paradigms from Evolution to Chaos
Reading: McPhee, part III
Recommended reading: Hayles “Searching for Common Ground” and Worster “Nature and the Disorder of History,” both in Reinventing Nature? (ch 45)
Part V: HUMAN BEINGS AS RESOURCE FOR NATURE
Mon. Aug. 7. History of Environmentalism, part I
Wed., Aug. 9 History of Environmentalism, part II
Reading: Gottleib: Introduction, Part II (chapters 4-5), and Conclusion
Recommended reading: Aldo Leopold, Part IV, the Upshot.
Mon. Aug. 14: Conclusions
Reading: Momaday The Way to Rainy Mountain (entire).
Wed. Aug. 16: Final Exam or second variation of personal essay due.