Professor: Cheryll Glotfelty
Institution: University of Nevada, Reno
Course Number: English 490/690
English 490/690–Capstone Course
Major Texts of the Environmental Movement
University of Nevada, Reno
Professor: Cheryll Glotfelty, FH 10C, 784-6223
office hours: Thursday 3-5, and by appt.
The goal of this course is to promote ecological literacy by studying the “greatest hits” of the modern environmental movement, those famous books that made a big splash and that have shaped environmental thinking and policymaking in America. (The books you’ve heard of but have never gotten around to reading.) The course is interdisciplinary, discussing the readings from the perspectives of the American literary tradition, rhetoric, science, and public policy. In addition, the reading selections themselves represent many disciplines, including natural resources, pest management, nutrition, climatology, economics, ethics, and literature. Although many of the readings are polemical, this class will attempt to remain even-handed by reviewing evidence that challenges the readings. Formal debates on key environmental questions are an integral part of this class, enabling you to move beyond the assigned readings to research the issues for yourselves.
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Paul and Anne Ehrlich, The Population Explosion
20% Paper #1 (short, critical paper)
20% Paper #2 (paper on ecological utopias)
20% Debate (includes submitting debate notecards)
10% Participation (includes attendance and contributions to discussion)
Reading will be evaluated by one-page written responses, due each time there is assigned reading. These responses can be quite informal; they may be handwritten; they will be evaluated for quality of thought, not for style or grammar. The response should be structured as follows: At the top of the page
write the book title and assigned page numbers. Pause to think about the assigned pages of reading. Below the book title, write out one provocative question about the reading, a question that genuinely puzzles you, for which you have no immediate answer. With this question in mind, flip through the book again, looking for clues that give you some insight into the question. The rest of the page should be devoted to further pondering and perhaps answering this question. Please limit your responses to one side of one page.
For example, when we read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, one possible question might be “Why does Abbey have such an arrogant attitude toward tourists?” The response might then go on to cite a few specific examples of Abbey’s arrogance. After describing those encounters you might surmise that Abbey wants to have the wilderness to himself and that the tourists interfere with his desired solitude, or that the tourists show no appreciation for the landscape so dear to Abbey himself; therefore, he cannot respect their values. Or, you might simply decide that Abbey is an ornery old cuss, perhaps deliberately so, in order to arouse reader interest.
The goal of these responses is not only to get you to think seriously about
what you read, but also to provide you with some ideas to share with the class, thus making our discussions more thoughtful and productive. I will freely call upon you at any time to share your response with the class. Good responses receive 3 points, mediocre ones 2 points, and weak ones 1 point. One point will be deducted for responses turned in late.
Papers will be assigned as the semester progresses. The first will be a 4-5 page critical essay on one or more of the readings. The second will be a 5-6 page paper about ecological utopias.
Each paper should be typewritten, double-spaced, stapled together in the upper left hand corner. NUMBER YOUR PAGES!! No folders, please. In the upper right hand corner of the first page, type your name, the date, the course, and the assignment number. All papers should have a title, centered, on the first page.
Failure to follow these instructions will lower your paper grade.
Papers are due at the beginning of class. Papers turned in at the end of class
will be counted as one day late. One half a letter grade will be deducted for each class meeting that a paper is late.
Debate instructions will be discussed on the second class meeting. Briefly, each student will take part in one debate. Debate teams will consist of two students on each side of a given issue. Debates will be an adaptation of official National Forensic League procedures, which allow for both assertions, cross examinations, rebuttals, and questions from the audience. Each debate will last an entire class period. Preparation for these debates requires outside research and team planning.
Participation is essential to a lively class. Quiet students make for a sleepy class. No question is too stupid to ask. Your ideas are valuable. Participation will be graded as follows:
10 Good participant (good contributor, good listener)
7 Medium participant (occasional comments, average performance)
4 Weak participant (silent, asleep, unruly, or rude)
Attendance: Zero absences will add a point to your participation score. One
to three absences will have no effect. For each absence over three, one point will be deducted from your participation score.
Grad students will be expected to write longer papers than undergrads. Papers #1 and #2 should each be 8-10 pages. In addition, you will be asked to give two minilectures (15-20 minutes each), each of which summarizes the critical response that a particular book has received. See me for further instructions.
M Jan 23–Introduction
W Jan 25–Debate planning
M Jan 30–Handout: Thoreau, and other mid-19th century writers
W Feb 1–Handout: Muir, Pinchot, and the Preservation/conservation split
M Feb 6–Leopold, Part I: 1-98, “Thinking Like a Mountain”: 137-141
W Feb 8–Leopold, “Round River”: 188-202, “The Land Ethic”: 237-64,
“Wilderness” : 264-79
M Feb 13–Carson 1-152
W Feb 15–Carson 153-297
M Feb 20–NO CLASSES–Presidents’ Day
W Feb 22–debate on pesticides
M Feb 27–Abbey 1-146
W Mar 1–Abbey 147-303
M Mar 6–debate on wilderness
W Mar 8–PAPER #1 DUE; Handout: Garrett Hardin and others
M Mar 13–Ehrlich 1-135
W Mar 15–Ehrlich 136-261
M Mar 20, W Mar 22–NO CLASSES–Spring Break
M Mar 27–debate on population
W Mar 29–Lappe 1-114
M Apr 3–Lappe 115-97
W Apr 5–fieldtrip to Washoe Zephyr Food Co-op
M Apr 10–Nearing 1-114
W Apr 12–Nearing 115-205; natural foods potluck party
M Apr 17–debate on vegetarianism
W Apr 19–Callenbach 1-90
M Apr 24–Callenbach 91-181
W Apr 26–Lovelock 1-63
M May 1–Lovelock 64-150
W May 3–debate on climate control
M May 8–PAPER #2 DUE; conclusion