Global Environmental Literature

Professor: Jim Bishop
Institution: Young Harris College
Course Number: ENGL 4301

All of the beloe information, and more, can be found on the course blog:


Young Harris College
English 4301: Global Environmental Literature
Meetings: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-3:15
Location: Goolsby 204
Email: [email protected]
Office / extension: Goolsby 101C / x5262
Office Hours: Mondays 1:00-6:00; Tuesdays & Thursdays 8:00-9:30, 1:00-2:00
and by appointment

Course description:   This senior seminar requires students to take an active role in class discussion and provides them with the skills that are expected of a college graduate with a degree in English. Students in this course will perform in‐depth study of global environmental literature, focusing particularly on the ways the assigned texts represent the natural world and issues of environmental sustainability–and the ways that these concepts are inflected by race, class, gender, and geographical location. Students will help lead discussion by taking responsibility for certain portions of each text that we study together, they will practice close reading and comparative analysis, and they will present their original research in a mini-conference at the semester’s end.

Required texts:

  • Ghosh, Amitov. The Hungry Tide. New York: Mariner, 2005.
  • Gordimer, Nadine. The Conservationist. 1974. New York: Penguin, 1983.
  • Hinston, David (ed.). Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. New York: New Directions Publishing, 2005.
  • Ishimure Michiko. Lake of Heaven. 1997. Trans. Bruce Allen. New York: Lexington Books, 2008.
  • Jiang Rong. Wolf Totem. 2004. Trans. Howard Goldblatt. New York: Penguin, 2008.
  • Johnson, Nicholas. Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House, 2005.
  • Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. 1988. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000.
  • Matthiessen, Peter. The Snow Leopard. 1978. New York: Penguin, 2008.
  • Osundare, Niyi. The Eye of the Earth. Lagos, Nigeria: Heinemann, 2002.
  • Sepúlveda, Luis. The Old Man Who Read Love Stories. 1989. New York: Mariner, 1995.
  • Tredinnick. Mark. The Blue Plateau: An Australian Pastoral. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed, 2009.
  • Wolf, Christa. Accident: A Day’s News. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001.


Weekly Blogs (500-700 words)          25%
Weekly Responses (2 @ 100 words)   10%
Final Conference Paper (15 min)        40%
Participation                                           25%

Course Policies:

Attendance: Because this is a discussion-oriented course, it is important that everyone be present for each class meeting. Your physical presence and active engagement are essential to your learning. You may miss two classes this semester without penalty. Any additional absences, beyond these two excused absences, will result in a penalty to your attendance & participation grade. If you miss more than four class meetings, you can expect to be withdrawn from the course. Students with perfect attendance receive a bonus on their participation grade.

Late arrivals and preparedness: Our time together is valuable, and late arrivals distract us from what we’re doing. Late arrivals (and early departures), for the purpose of grading, count as absences.

Late Work:  The nature of this class requires you to be prepared for each class session.  You will not receive credit for late work, although you are welcome to submit your blog late if you’d like to get feedback on it from me.

Just as it can take time to write a paper for a college class, it takes time to provide feedback on assignments. I will return all written assignments (provided that they are received on time) within two weeks of the day that are received (and often, earlier than that), and I will do my best to return them with ample time to apply my feedback to future written assignments.

General Etiquette:  Turn off your cell phones before class, and respond to your fellow classmates in discussion. Don’t leave them hanging!

Plagiarism and Academic DishonestyYou must follow the YHC Honor Code. Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s words or ideas without properly crediting the original author. Whether intentional or not, it is considered cheating. Having someone else write any aspect of your assignments is cheating. An Honor Code violation will result in your receiving a zero on the assignment, it may result in your failing this course, and it may result in your expulsion from the college.  Please feel free to talk with me if you have any questions about plagiarism.

Description of Blog Assignments:  Each week you will be responsible for composing a blog post (500-700 words) on a section of the assigned reading.  Each post will be due by class time on Tuesday.  The blog is a space for formal analysis of the text, a chance for you to explore the broader questions of the class (e.g., What characterizes environmental literature? What is the relationship between activism and literature? How does geographical location influence literary and environmental themes?) in the context of a particular section of the reading.  Because you will have considered your section in more depth than your peers, during class you will be expected to be the conversation leader on that section of the reading.

Description of Response Sets:  Each week, by Thursday’s class, you are expected to have responded to at least two of your peers’ initial blog postings. These responses may be brief (minimum of 100 words), and they should be a form of conversation. What questions does the blogger raise? Do you see other possibilities for reading and understanding the passages? Does the blog intersect in interesting ways with what you wrote about in your own blog? Can you think of another example from the text that illustrates the point your peer is making?

Description of Conference Paper:  Academic professionals attend conferences to share ideas and research.  Generally, they condense their work to 15-minute presentations for their colleagues.  A good conference paper raises important, interesting questions, and then proposes answers to those questions using some combination of primary research (archives), primary texts (close analysis of texts), and secondary research (theory).  A good conference paper is also a performance.  That means that you should write for a listening rather than a reading audience.  This paper therefore needs to be clear, sign-posted, and extremely well-organized.   You should also practice giving your paper aloud before the conference, and make any changes necessary to make it a precise 15-minute presentation that your peers will enjoy. Tentatively, our end-of-semester conference will happen over two days: Friday, December 3, from 6:00-8:30 p.m. and Tuesday, December 7, from 10:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Conferences:  There are three required meetings with me during the course of the semester.  On Friday, August 27, you will each meet individually with me to receive individualized direction on your first blog so that you’ll be oriented for writing future blogs. On Wednesday, October 13, you’ll meet with me to discuss a general topic and research strategy for your final conference paper.  During the week of November 29 to December 3, you will meet with me to go over a draft of your conference paper. You will also be required to visit the Speaking Center at least twice during the semester for help on class discussions or your final conference paper; details on this will be announced.

Rhetorica information:
This course is a Writing and Speaking Intensive course. It is part of a new academic program the College has developed to encourage effective written and spoken communication. This is the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The program, Rhetorica: The Art of Writing and Speaking at Young Harris College, is being piloted this year.

This course will not be more difficult or require more work than a “regular” version of English 4301. It simply includes a certain amount of writing, speaking, and class discussion as part of the course requirements. In addition to learning the course content, you will also improve your writing and speaking skills.

The learning outcomes for the writing and speaking aspects of the course are as follows:

Learning Outcomes for WI Courses:

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to explain, analyze, or argue specific concepts, ideas, or texts.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to support their explanations, analyses, or arguments with specific evidence and examples.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to convey their explanations, analyses, or arguments effectively by crafting written assignments that are well-organized and clearly written.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to write with mechanical and grammatical accuracy.
  5. Students will demonstrate the ability to format their written assignments according to the conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

Learning Outcomes for SI Courses that Include Formal Presentations:

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to deliver well-designed explanations, arguments, or analyses.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to make accurate and thorough explanations, arguments, or analyses and support them with relevant, sufficient, and effective evidence.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to adapt their message and delivery to a particular audience, situation, purpose, and occasion.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to articulate their message fluently and clearly.
  5. Students will demonstrate the ability to use effective nonverbal communication.
  6. Students will demonstrate the ability to manage communication apprehension.

Learning Outcomes for SI Courses that Include Class Discussion:

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to offer well-reasoned responses to specific concepts, issues, ideas, or texts related to the course material.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to articulate their responses clearly.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to respond to other students as well as their professor, and to respect the responses of others.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to manage communication apprehension.

Center for Writing and Speaking: You may visit the new Center for Writing and Speaking (CWS) to receive help with your papers this semester.  Student tutors will review drafts your papers and suggest ways that you can improve them before you submit them for a grade.  The CWS is located adjacent to the Pruitt-Barrett Administration Building, in the building formerly occupied by the Counseling and Psychological Services Center.  The Writing Center is open Sunday-Thursday from 3-5 and 6-10 PM.  No appointment is necessary.  Just bring a copy of your assignment and a draft of the paper you’re working on. You may also visit the new Center for Writing and Speaking (CWS) to receive help developing your presentation(s).  Student or faculty tutors will review your presentation(s) and suggest ways they can be improved before you deliver them.   This may include strategies to improve your outline, organization, visual aids, and delivery, as well as ways to manage anxiety.  Presentations can even be recorded and reviewed with faculty and student tutors.  The CWS is located adjacent to the Pruitt-Barrett Administration Building, in the building formerly occupied by the Counseling and Psychological Services Center.  The Speaking Center is open Monday-Thursday from 11-5 and Sunday from 1-5 PM.

Students with Disabilities:  Young Harris College complies with the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and offers accommodations to students with disabilities. All students with special requests or need for accommodations should make this request in person as soon as possible. You should present me with appropriate documents within two weeks of the beginning of the course.