The hallmark Wilderness Act of 1964 defined wilderness as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. First-generation environmental writers, sensing the increasing threats to these areas, particularly those most familiar to them, frequently used their writing as a vehicle to essentially “preserve” and share the “untrammeled” place. Second and third generation environmental writers no longer have that luxury. We live in a world where nature and culture are always in contact. This course examines today’s environmental writing with this relationship in mind. Students will be introduced to the art and practice of environmental writing, with particular focus on reading and writing the interdisciplinary environmental essay. Through both analysis and practice, students will increase their understanding of the specific traits of this genre, and begin to recognize the traits of the continually forming subgenres, ranging from toxic discourse to interspecies communication to the commodification of the global commons. This in turn will aid students in evaluating not only published writing but peer writing, as they recognize the potential pitfalls and challenges presented by environmental writing, but also, when successfully executed, its potential to influence social change.
Texts will include A.R. Ammons’ garbage: a poem, David Peterson’s Writing Naturally: A Down-To-Earth Guide to Nature Writing, Peter Sauer’s Finding Nature: Writing on Nature and Culture from Orion Magazine, and Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.
- Regular attendance and participation.
- Two 5-7 page essays and one 7-10 page polished essay developed from journaling, writing exercises and rough drafts, revised with the help of peer and instructor feedback, submitted as a portfolio.
- 6 short writings preparing students for class discussion.
- 1 individual conference and 1 mini-group conference with instructor.