Sunday, January 31, 2010

Environmental Literature and the Ethical Obligation

For Monday, you read a few poems that took as their central concern physical places or the manner in which a physical place imprints a body or an ancestral history. We discussed in class the criteria some eco-critics have established for evaluating whether a piece of literature is a piece of "environmental literature" or not. One criteria that Buell established for this assessment was that a text must have an "ethical orientation" to be a piece of environmental literature. Of the poems you read, which did you read as having a strong "ethical orientation"? Please explain your response and provide and example or two.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Welcome to "Literature and the Environment"!

I am excited to start this semester with all of you. We will be reading many texts out of an anthology: poems, short stories, articles, philosophical pieces. We will also be reading a novel (Willa Cather's My Antonia), a work of literary nonfiction (Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire), and a collection of stories and essays (Mary Austin's The Land of Little Rain).

My hope is that all of you enrolled in this class because you have a certain interest in the way people have written about the places in which they have lived, the places they have perhaps assessed as vulnerable, the places that have invigorated or frightened them. When we think of "environmental" writing, we probably often think of writing with an activist purpose, writing that intends to save or make a necessary change on behalf of a place. We might also think of "environmental" writing as "nature" writing and most people would quickly think of Thoreau's Walden (an excerpt of which we will read for Monday). These are just some ideas that come to my mind when I think of our course title. What comes to your mind? What is "nature writing" to you? What is "environmental literature"? Are these the same thing?

If we think of our course title--"Literature and the Environment"--I hope we will be spurred forward by my use of "and" rather than "of." In essence, I am hoping for us to not only engage with texts (visual and written texts) that have been called "environmental" or "nature" writing but also for us to engage with the ways that certain places create and effect textual output. The last point should make us aware that by using an "and" in our course title, we have really expanded our interpretive horizon.

I am excited to read any comments you have at this time on these initial ideas!