English R1B

Reading and Composition: Nature Writing in English Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Fall 2022 Tomasula y Garcia, Alba
MWF 2-3 DWIN233

Book List

Robert Finch & John Elder, eds.: The Norton Book of Nature Writing, College Edition

Other Readings and Media

All other material will be provided on 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 English-speaking world, whose landscapes and all they contain, for at least the past two hundred years, have been primarily framed and utilized as raw resources for human enterprises. Yet English 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 romantic prose on the Eden-like existence of “pure” environments to sober reflections on a desert’s amoral dangers, English literature has witnessed not only wildly manifold and changing landscapes, 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 English 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 English-speaking 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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