English R1B

Reading and Composition: Wild(ish) America

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2021 Tomasula y Garcia, Alba
MWF 12-1 104 Wheeler

Book List

Austin, Mary: The Land of Little Rain; Dillard, Annie: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; Fowler, Karen Joy: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; Hemingway, Ernest: The Old Man and the Sea; Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Vandermeer, Jeff: Annihilation; Vann, David: Goat Mountain

Other Readings and Media

All other course material will be made available through bCourses


The perceived divide between humans and the natural world has been defined as one of the most important frameworks under which our thoughts and behaviors are constructed. This has unquestionably been the case in the United States, whose landscapes and all they contain, from the country’s foundation to the 21st century, have been primarily framed and utilized as raw resources for human enterprises. Yet American literature—from its earliest examples to today’s offerings—is filled with a rich diversity of depictions of the natural world and human-nature interactions. From white whales that encapsulate the awesome terror of the nonhuman world (and all the paradoxical human sentiments such terror inspires) to explicit love for parasitic insects that exemplify nature’s violent yet wondrous diversity, the United States has witnessed not only a wildly manifold and changing landscape, but a wildly diverse body of writings on nature. In this course, we will examine but a few of the ways in which relationships between humans and nature are represented in American literature; what histories, perceptions, and biases inform such representations; and what the real-world consequences of particular representations may be. We will gain a sense of how writing can influence feelings about nature, open up a space to interrogate ingrained assumptions about nature, and even shape major political decisions regarding the natural world. A few broad questions we will consider during this class include: What precisely is nature? How have particular American cultures (or even particular individuals) opposed or embraced it, and why? And how have certain human identities and behaviors been elevated “above” nature, stigmatized as “unnatural,” or even denigrated because of their supposed closeness to nature? With the goal of developing your writing and research skills, we will primarily devote class time to discussing the course reading, with the goal of fostering critical thinking through a combination of lecture material, question and answer, and group discussion. We will also spend time preparing for papers by building writing, editing, and research skills.

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