Minority Traditions in American Literature

Professor: Nicole Seymour
Institution: University of Louisville
Course Number: English 369.01

Minority Traditions in American Literature
Topic: Environmental Justice
Spring 2012

Course Description and Student Learning Outcomes
This course fulfills the first Cultural Diversity requirement (CD1), which aims to help students understand and appreciate cultural diversity. As a 300-level English course, it will also require you to develop your skills in literary analysis, including close reading and argumentation. We will focus on environmental justice-–the activist paradigm that insists that experiences of environmental risk are shaped by inequalities of race/ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality–-and study literary and filmic works that emerge from communities of color concerned with this issue.

We will look at a mix of “high literary” texts and more popular ones, especially from the mystery/detective genre. This will allow us to survey a variety of approaches to environmental justice, and to consider the unique capabilities of each approach. In particular, our inclusion of the mystery/detective novel, in that it focuses on epistemological problems, will allow us to consider such questions as, How accessible should environmental justice literature–-both fictional and non-fictional-–be? How do community expertise, traditional beliefs, and “women’s intuition” function alongside institutional knowledges when it comes to environmental health risks? What kinds of epistemologies (ways of knowing) do environmental risks require, and how do threatened communities and individuals act on their knowledge when larger structural forces seek to suppress it?

Full syllabus (PDF): ASLE_Syllabi_EnvJusticeSeymour