Literature and Environment

Professor: Elizabeth Dodd
Institution: Kansas State University
Course Number: English 450

Literature and Environment
What [people] see in Nature is a result of what they have been taught to see–lessons in school, doctrines they have heard in church, books they have read. They are conditioned most of all by what they mean by Nature, a word that has gathered around itself paradox and ambiguity…

–Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Moutain Gloom and Mountain Glory

This course will examine various ways writers have presented the natural world, in poems, stories, essays, memoirs, and novels. We’ll explore the following questions: how do specific places (prairies, mountains, deserts, cities) affect the psyche of the people who call those places home? Why do some people claim humanity is a part of nature, while other claim it is apart from nature, and what’s the difference, anyway? How do economic circumstances affect the views people have of the land and the animal species that also live there? What are some attitudes toward hunting and what implications do they have? How do cultural views of nature contribute to the ethical decisions a community makes? How can nature writing invite larger, metaphysical speculation and conversation? And most importantly, how do authors either reflect or challenge, through their creative work, specific societal views of nature?

Full syllabus (PDF): ASLE_Syllabi_LitEnvDodd