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The Changing Climate of Nature Writing

ENGL 105.601
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

 

The relationship between the natural world and the writers who engage it has changed dramatically since Henry David Thoreau first took up residence at Walden Pond in the 1840s. That Romantic age knew little of genetically-modified crops, climate change, industrial agriculture, catastrophic oil spills, or combustible rivers. This course explores the current state of American nature writing downstream from its headwaters in Transcendentalist writing. Turning to contemporary writers of fiction, blogs, poetry, and essays, we will take stock of what has changed since Thoreau "went to the woods to live deliberately," exploring our society's changed relationships with and shifting definitions of nature. To do this, we'll examine various post-Romantic literary modes, asking to what extent our society's rhetorics of smart-growth, or apocalypticism, or ecological science represent new species of nature writing, or simply the evolution of Transcendental literary forms to respond to the 21stcentury environmental crisis.