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Literature and the Natural Environment

ENGL 569.601
instructor(s):
M 6:30-9:10

"Literature and the Natural Environment" examines and attempts--both scientific and literary--to understand and depict ecological realities. We will begin by considering some bedrock issues and concepts, such as the theory of evolution and its meaning for human self-definition, the idea of the ecosystem, the true character of the scientific representation of nature, and traditional distinctions between nature and culture. We will also consider more popular notions like the Gaia Hypothesis and Deep Ecology. We will then explore the treatment of nature by various writers, with particular emphasis on their understanding of natural history, ecology, and environmental crisis. Primary readings will include essays by scientific writers (E.O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins); essays by nature writers (Thoureau, Burroughs, David Rains Wallace, Barry Lopez, Sue Hubbell, and Michael Pollan); and several novels (Silko's *Ceremony*, Hiaasen's *Double Whammy*, DeLillo's *White Noise*, and McCarthy's *The Crossing*). Supplementary readings will include essays by ecologically-oriented literary critics, as well as a few poems and short stories; we will also see several films, and students will be directed to pertinent web-sites. One paper of moderate length, and a longer term paper for which some additional reading and research will be required.