ENGLISH 355 - Southern Natures: The Making and Unmaking of Races and Environments in the US South
Fall 2022, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


In this course, we will explore southern US environmental, racial, and cultural history. We will think about how southern environments have been created, experienced, and turned into narrative and visual art since the colonial period, with an emphasis on the 1840-present period. We’ll think about how notions of racial difference, gradually codified in southern colonies and states beginning around 1700, came to be “naturalized” (with reference to environmental factors like climate), while it was a majority Africa-descended workforce who was carrying out the work of environmental alterations (deforestation, staple cultivation, infrastructure building, etc.). We’ll think both about unequal exposures to environmental harm (a fundamental concern in the Environmental Justice movement), but also about deep traditions of environmental love and affinity across southern communities.

We’ll start with a long unit on Hurricane Katrina, as remembered through the work of filmmakers, mapmakers, visual artists and journalists. Next we’ll look at contemporary plantation (and Civil War) memorialization to consider how the plantation lives on in our built and cultural environments. These first weeks spent looking at the contemporary scene will set up some mysteries for us to solve in the rest of the term: how were these contemporary legacies of the plantation era produced historically? We’ll jump back to Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the States of Virginia (1782) and work our way forward again, through authors and artists like Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright.

I very much welcome students from across the university to take this class. In past years, students in Engineering, PitE, English, Art & Design and other majors/schools have brought their academic fluencies to our conversations in really productive ways. For English majors, this course satisfies your American Literature and Identity/Difference requirements. In the past, the course has counted toward the “Sustainability” track in Engineering. Requirements: reading and viewing all assigned texts/films, two 4-5pp papers, a terms and identification test, and, at the end of the term, a slightly longer final paper (6-8pp) or creative project (virtual exhibit design or memorial object, short story, play).

Class Format:

Learning Mode: All class meetings will be taught synchronously and In-Person for the Fall 2021 term.

Instruction Mode: The class meets synchronously twice a week in person.


ENGLISH 355 - Southern Natures: The Making and Unmaking of Races and Environments in the US South
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM

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