Jennifer W Atkinson
Examines important literary movements and literary genres with attention to their historical context. Emphasizes issues of race, class, and gender.
STUDIES IN AMERICAN LITERATURE: "PLACE AND ENVIRONMENT"
This course examines intersections between American literature and the physical environment — from frontiers, forests and inner cities to homeless camps and Native American reservations. While our inquiry primarily focuses on literary fiction, we will seek an interdisciplinary perspective on cultural representations of place by also drawing on film, nature writing, art history, phenomenology and Marxist geography. Across these texts students will explore questions like: How is narrative shaped by environmental encounter and a "sense of place"? How, in turn, are perceptions of place mediated by literature and literary convention? How have understandings of nature, wilderness and the city changed over time? How do categories like race, class, gender and nation affect environmental experience and representation?
Readings may include works from Willa Cather, Richard Wright, Linda Hogan, Don DeLillo, Henry David Thoreau and Toni Morrison. Students will also read short stories, view several films and listen to recorded poetry readings by contemporary environmental poets.
Student learning goals
- Develop forms of environmental awareness that enrich the experience of reading literature; conversely, identify the particular resources and perspectives that the humanities bring to environmental thought.
- Build an understanding of the theories and critical approaches of literary study in order to more fully participate in conversations within this discipline; develop a critical ability to identify, interpret and analyze ideas and formal features within literary texts; situate readings in historical and political contexts.
- Produce well-written work and develop analytically rigorous arguments with clearly defined stakes; perform close readings of texts and build this analytical practice into your own writing to produce nuanced, sophisticated and carefully-argued essays.
- Increase communication skills through presentations and group work; generate a cooperative spirit as a community of students and mutually support one another as writers/learners through workshops and peer editing.
- Develop a sense of literature's function and value in responding to issues of environmental crisis, environmental justice, biodiversity and cultural diversity.
General method of instruction
Seminar-style discussions, in-class writing exercises and peer-reviews of written work.
This course involves a SUBSTANTIAL reading load and several major writing assignments; students should be prepared to devote a considerable amount of time to carefully reading and analyzing these materials over the quarter. Beyond that, no special preparation or prerequisite is necessary for enrollment.
Class assignments and grading
Evaluations of student performance will be based on participation, journal entries, oral presentations and a midterm & final paper.