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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Kathleen Blake
ENGL 365
Seattle Campus

Literature and Discourse on the Environment

Pays attention to verbal expression; forms and genres; and historical, cultural, and conceptual contexts of the natural environment. Focuses on sites, nations, and historical periods. Forms and genres include: nature writing, environmentalist discourses, the pastoral, the sublime, discourses of the city , fiction, poetry, nonfiction prose, dramatic forms, and religious texts. Offered: AWSpS.

Class description

English 365A. Contemporary American Literature of Nature: The West. Prof. Kathleen Blake

Note: Of interest to students in English, also Comparative Literature and other Literatures, Program on the Environment, other Sciences, Comparative History of Ideas, History, Philosophy, other areas

This course explores a field that is developing in English departments: literature of nature and the environment, here with emphasis on the American West. While English classes offer acculturation in language and literature, in this class you will go "back to nature." But culture is part of nature--as Gary Snyder says, words are wild. Following initial short readings that set historical reference points --Genesis in the Bible, Edmund Burke on "the sublime," Henry David Thoreau, from Walden, and John Muir, from The Yosemite, with a video segment from Ken Burns, The National Parks—the course directs main focus to American Literature of Nature in the West from the mid 20th C. to the present, drawn from Barry Lopez, “A Presentation of Whales," Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, sel. poems of Gary Snyder, a video segment from Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert, The American West and Its Disappearing Water, John McPhee, “Los Angeles Against the Mountains," James Welch, Winter in the Blood, Gretel Ehrlich, sel. from The Solace of Open Spaces, Annie Proulx, "Brokeback Mountain," with clips from the recent film, Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping, sel. from William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground, Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. The West here means the West Coast and inland Northwest. Our region has produced writers worthy of the tradition. Note: be aware that the "Western" of story and the silver screen is a subject in itself and beyond our range. Perspectives include: Christian, pastoral, sublime, Zen, environmentalist, Native American, work-oriented, gender/sexuality-oriented. We cover essays, fiction, and poetry, making for quite a number of works, but many are in slim volumes and short selections, and some are available via coursepak, class handouts, e-reserves or video. Lecture-discussion. In-class component (standout participation can count up to +/- .3 on course grade). In-class Essay Midterm (30%); Final (30%); Paper (@8-9pp. 40%). All required work must be completed according to the schedule.

Student learning goals

Analysis of verbal disourse, transmission of information/ideas/values through language, style, literary appreciation

Environmental understanding in a cultural context

Knowledge, appreciation of contemporary American Literature of the West

Practice and feedback building writing skills--analyticial/critical essay form

Practice and building skills/confidence in speaking in small and large groups (voluntary basis)

Expanding competence in learning through in-class interactions with professor and students

General method of instruction


Recommended preparation

There will be a considerable number of English majors, while students in other areas are welcome--Comparative Literature, other Literatures, Program on the Environment, other Sciences, Comparative History of Ideas, History, Philosophy, other areas

Class assignments and grading

See course description above

See course description above

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Kathleen Blake
Date: 11/10/2009