What role can literature play in exposing environmentally harmful modes of thinking, being, and acting, while dramatizing appealing alternatives? How are environmental issues connected to social hierarchies such as race, class, sexuality and disability and to histories of settler colonialism? How can literature and film inspire us to imagine and create more socially just and environmentally oriented futures? This course introduces important questions, concepts, concerns and texts in environmental literatures, organized into three sections: colonialism, wilderness, and indigenous cultures; toxins, environmental justice and the problem with the “natural;” and extinction, posthumanism, and future visions. We will read and discuss three novels, Louise Erdrich, Tracks; Helena Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus; and Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation. We will also read and discuss poetry, essays, and short films, such as the animated “Slurb” by Marina Zurkow, the SF film “Pumzi” by Wanuri Kahiu, and Maya Lin’s digital media work, “What is Missing.”
Arts & Letters (A&L) courses create meaningful opportunities for students to engage actively in the modes of inquiry that define a discipline. Courses are broad in scope and demonstrably liberal in nature (that is, courses that promote open inquiry from a variety of perspectives). Though some courses may focus on specialized subjects or approaches, there will be a substantial course content locating that subject in the broader context of the major issues of the discipline. Qualifying courses will not focus on teaching basic skills but will require the application or engagement of those skills through analysis and interpretation.
Lower-division Elective courses allow students to choose (or “elect”) courses or faculty specific to their own developing interests, enabling them thereby to shape their own educational experience. Major II students can also use one lower-division elective to fulfill the Writing Requirement with ENG 209 The Craft of the Sentence.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.