English R1A

Reading & Composition: Literature of Environmental Instability and Hazard

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2015 Lewis, Rachel Thayer
MW 4-5:30 222 Wheeler

Book List

Greenblatt (editor), Stephen: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2; Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein

Other Readings and Media

Nichols, Jeffrey:  Take Shelter (film)


Wordsworth famously wrote, “Nature never did betray/ The heart that loved her.”  What then of storms and natural disasters – moments when our environment becomes disordered, disruptive, or overpowering?  We will read representations of nature’s stormy instability as a reflection or extension of human loss and tumult; an aesthetic marvel to be enjoyed from a distance; an indifferent force of desolation; and, perhaps most terrifying, a dynamic system in which we humans act as a potentially overwhelming and destructive force that unsettles and intensifies nature’s hazardous instability. We will explore how these various renderings participate in cultural discourses that are deeply rooted in time and place. This course brings a body of literary works into conversation with each other while also considering how these texts may shape and inform 20th- and 21st-century environmental writings. 

While we will spend a good deal of class time puzzling over the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the selected texts, our primary aim in this course is to develop academic reading and writing skills.  To this end, we will have frequent practice in writing in a variety of forms of discourse, including exercises in observation, description, and reflection, as well as short analytical essays.   Processes of outlining, drafting, editing, peer-review, and revising will be central to the life of our classroom and your work for this class at home. 

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