Nature in Popular Culture

Professor: Sarah Wald
Institution: University of Oregon
Course Number: ENVS 410/510

Dr. Sarah D. Wald, [email protected]
Nature in Popular Culture
ENVS 410/510, Spring 2015

This course examines the various ways that nature is represented in U.S. popular culture. What can advertisements, films, television, and popular music teach us about the ways we imagine nature and the environment? What ideas about nature are conveyed by zoos, aquariums, and nature-oriented theme parks? Popular culture representations of nature also tell us more than how we imagine nature and the environment. They articulate and naturalize ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and disability. They present certain kinds of identities as natural and normative and other kinds of identities as unnatural or out of place in nature. We will examine the politics of identity in depictions of SeaWorld, gay penguins, and Mother Earth. What is at stake in movies like Pocahontas or Avatar? How are ideas about race and colonialism communicated in advertisements for the Discovery Channel and The Body Shop? We will explore the ways that representations of nature can at times justify existing relationships of power and privilege in society and the ways in which such representations may also at times contest those existing relationships of power and privilege. As part of this class, you will be responsible for contributing examples of popular culture to class discussion through your portfolio assignments. One of the aims of this class is to help you be a more critically and engaged reader of the popular culture that surrounds you.

Full Syllabus: ASLE_Syllabi_NatCultWald