ENVIRON 244 - Topics in Culture and Environment
Section: 001 Introduction to Environmental Humanities
Term: WN 2019
Subject: Program in the Environment (ENVIRON)
Department: SNE Program in the Environment
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May be repeated for a maximum of 12 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:

In the face of the very real challenges facing our planet, why read literature, make art, watch the film, or study history? This course is built on the premise that, far from being a distraction from (or simply a form of pleasure amidst) environmental degradation, such practices can, in fact, enable us to be more attentive, imaginative, ethical, and effective environmental stewards.

More specifically, we’ll consider the habits of attention that various written, artistic, and conceptual modes demand — and consider how engaging carefully with work in these genres can help us think of environmental crisis anew. Along the way, we will find ourselves asking questions like the following: How might turning to the humanities not only offer us new answers to the questions that various environmental challenges pose, but also alter the terms in which we define such questions and challenges themselves? How can the seeming indirectness of literature (its tendency, say, to speak in symbol or metaphor) help us rethink our belief that successful activism is necessarily “direct”? How might the pace and scale of literary and historical narrative help attune us to environmental problems that unfold slowly, beneath notice, or at a geological rate? How can the “human” focus of the “humanities” give us the language with which to articulate the strange intimacies between human bodies, nonhuman others, and the material environments that surround (and constitute) us all? How can insights from various fields in the humanities help us to understand the relationship between environmental activism and various social justice projects — or, more fundamentally, to understand the way in which our relationship to the environment is so often already itself gendered and racialized?

Take this class if you’re a student of the humanities who want to better understand the connection between what you do in your home discipline and the work involved in environmental problem-solving and activism. Take this class if you’re an environmental activist (and/or PitE major) who is unsure what role the activities you do in the “rest” of your life might have to do with your political and ethical commitments. Take this class if you’re skeptical that the humanities and environmental studies might, in fact, have anything to say to one another.

Readings will include novels, short stories, poems, creative nonfiction, and film, along with work being done in environmental history, cultural anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, gender studies, and the “environmental humanities,” broadly conceived.

Course Requirements:

Active class participation, informal reading responses, several short papers, midterm and final exams

Intended Audience:

Designed as an introduction to the environmental humanities for lower-division students, although other students are welcome as well. The class should appeal to students throughout LSA because of its interdisciplinary nature.

Class Format:

Discussion, with occasional brief lectures

ENVIRON 244 - Topics in Culture and Environment
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
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