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  • All assignments are due in class/by class time on the date unless otherwise indicated (Writing Projects); the items listed under “Consider” are suggestions for your thinking and responding in your journal, but not required to be turned in.

Part 1: Sounding Walden (Environmental Poetics)

M 8/29/16

  • Due: First Class.  Introduction to thinking about the environment as readers and writers. Read through the course syllabus and information available on Earth’s Eye. Also, read this short op-ed, “Are We Loving Our National Parks to Death?”
  • Consider: For discussion in class, consider what associations and definitions you have for words such as “nature,” “culture,” “environmental.” This is a course on environmental or nature writing, what do you expect that to be about?

W 8/31

  • Due: John Burroughs, “The Art of Seeing Things” (146 in American Earth) [Digital version available here for those without the book yet] + Wendell Berry, “Solving for Pattern” [link here]
  • Consider: What are your initial senses of what nature writing or environmental literature is about? What vision of being a ‘nature writer’ does Burroughs offer us? What understanding of the environment and/or ecology does Berry’s perspective provide us? What are keywords and key passages that you notice and note? Begin to use your journal for that noticing and notation–and to explore some of your own seeing and reading of the ‘book’ of nature.
    • Remember, on your way to class, stop with your journal somewhere on campus and see and write for 10 minutes, as though you were out walking with Burroughs.

F 9/2

  • Due: Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism: preface + chapter 1 (“The Emergence of Environmental Criticism”)
  • Consider: This book focuses on the emergence of environmental literary criticism, or ecocriticism, since the 1970s. As you begin to engage with some of the critical ideas and keywords it introduces, take note of them in your journal. These critical connections will be useful for your blogging, your essay writing, and the final project in which you engage in an ecocritical project of your own devising. A keyword to begin to think about:  “environmentality.”


M 9/5

  • Due: Thoreau, Walden, “Economy” (at least half  of this first chapter)

W 9/7

  • Due: Read for Friday’s assignment (don’t leave it for Thursday night); continue journal writing in response to what you see in Thoreau and elsewhere–bring journal and the Walden text to class.
  • Consider:

F 9/9

  • Due: Thoreau, Walden: “Economy” and “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”  (the first two chapters) + blog.
  • Consider: What is Thoreau interested in and concerned about? What is your sense of his agenda, of the purpose and the audience for this book? Focus on some key passages (maybe even key words) that stand out thus far. Use the blog format to help you–offer at least one quotation from the text that you work around, dig into, question, etc.


M 9/12

  • Due: Walden: “Reading” through “Visitors”
  • Consider: How does Thoreau continue his argument or “project” in these succeeding chapters? One good strategy with Thoreau: spend additional time with one or two particular passages–go back and re-read, put some response into your journal, look up some keywords (think OED), ask questions.

W 9/14

  • Due: Walden: “The Bean-Field” through “Higher Laws”
  • Consider: If these are chapters about how to live sustainably (Thoreau uses the word ‘sustain’ in Solitude), what’s the vision and do you think it is a model for sustainable living today?

F 9/16

  • Due: BlogWalden:  “Brute Neighbors” through “The Pond in Winter”: everyone must read “The Pond in Winter”; for the other chapters in this chunk, you may select 1 additional chapter of interest (or put differently, ignore several)–or read them all.
  • Consider: Note the ways these chapters give close-up views of Walden, very empirical if not ecological; but also pull way back, into symbol.


M 9/19

  • Due: Walden: “Spring”
  • Consider: We will give our attention to the intense focus on thawing sand; worth a slow, deliberate reading and re-reading.
    • Nara Park talk, Kohl Gallery, 6 pm (optional)

W 9/21

  • Due: Walden: “Conclusion”
  • Consider:Does the experiment fail or succeed? Where does Thoreau leave us?

Class discussion today: meet in Kohl Gallery (Gibson) at 10.30 for visit to Nara Park exhibit, “Believe”

F 9/23

  • Due: Blog + Critical Connection: Kathryn Schulz, “Pond Scum” [linked] and Purdy, “In the Shit with Thoreau” In your blog, discuss the conclusions you have reached regarding Walden, and how they compare/contrast with Schulz and/or Purdy.
    • Do you agree or disagree with Schulz’ critical assessment of Thoreau and the influence of Walden? Based on your reading of the text, what does she get right or wrong? Is Purdy’s view more or less persuasive than Schulz’s?


M 9/26

Due: Critical Connections: Buell, “Thoreau and the Natural Environment” (p. 527 in Norton edition of Walden) + Buell, chapter 2 in The Future of Environmental Criticism, “The World, The Text, and The Ecocritic.”

Consider: Buell’s idea of Thoreau’s “ecocentric revision” and his various projects;  compost ideas for your first writing project and ways you can integrate an aspect of Buell’s argument into your project. What elements of Buell’s environmental criticism might you use in your writing project, to help you pursue a deliberate (Thoreauvian, ecocritical) reading of Walden?

W 9/28

  • Due: Initial drafting of Writing Project. Submit to Canvas a 2-3 page draft. Peer response due by Thursday 5 pm. See guidelines for peer response in Canvas. Bring draft to class for workshop.
  • consider:

F 9/30

  • Due: Writing Project #1 (Deliberate Reading) due by Saturday noon [submitted to Canvas]. At the top or bottom of the project, include a brief abstract (2-3 sentences) addressing the following: What’s the project?–a statement of your argument. What’s working?–identify an aspect of the project that you have worked on and think is effective. What else?–identify something that you might like to keep working on, either to improve or expand or get back to possibly in the final project.
  • Consider: Bring a draft to class for a revision/editing workshop–and to share  what your reading focuses on; we will consider lessons from Thoreau to use in our own writing.


Part 2: Thoreau’s Neighbors (Environmental Rhetoric)

M 10/3

  • Due: Ralph Waldo Emerson, excerpt from Nature (1836) linked here. And in American Earth:  Susan Fenimore, from Rural Hours  (p. 48) + Walt Whitman, “This Compost” and “Song of the Redwood Tree” (p. 62)
  • Consider: Think Thoreau–and listen/look for perspectives that are different or related. Cooper and Emerson write in the years just before Thoreau publishes Walden, and Whitman the year after.

W 10/5

  • Due: American Earth: John Muir, “A Wind Storm in the Forest” (p. 89) and John Burroughs, “The Grist of the Gods” (p. 159)
  • Consider: delving into the sublime and the transcendental in nature

F 10/7

  • Due: American Earth: Aldo Leopold (entire selection) + Blog [in your overview of the reading, must deal with Leopold and at least two other authors from this week: Emerson, Cooper, Whitman, Muir, Burroughs]
  • Consider: Many will have read some of Leopold before; consider how it reads now in relation to Thoreau. Is Leopold also thinking like Thoreau? How does he compare to Emerson or Muir or Whitman or Cooper?


M 10/10

  • Due: Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: chapters 1, 2
  • Consider: For some initial senses of Dillard’s style (and related: her vision), consider immediate similarities/differences with Thoreau. How does this book read compared to Walden? Look for some keywords you notice her using.

Tuesday 10/11: Environmental Artist Mark Dion lectures in Decker at 5.15 pm [attendance recommended]

W 10/12

  • Due: Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: chapters 3, 4
  • Consider: Continue to think about what Dillard means by “Seeing” and how we can apply her seeing to our reading. How might we think like Dillard?

F 10/14

  • Due:  Fall Break/no class
  • Consider:


M 10/17

  • Due: Pilgrim: chapters 5-8
  • Consider: As we did with Thoreau, identify at least 1 passage as you read that gives you a better sense of what Dillard’s project is in this book. Consider passages where we see Dillard’s observation of what she calls “intricacy.” How does she represent this in her writing?

W 10/19

  • Due: Buell, chapter 3, “Space, Place, and Imagination from Local to Global” in The Future of Environmental Criticism  
  • Consider:

F 10/21

  • Due: Pilgrim: chapters 9-12 + blog. You can use this blog to being to explore some ideas for your writing project (Dillard’s vision).
  • Consider: give particular attention to chapter 10, “Fecundity.” Dillard refers to fecundity as the dark side of intricacy–what passages suggest that best to your mind (and could refer back to earlier passages from the book)?


M 10/24

  • Due: Pilgrim: finish the book.
  • Consider: Dillard and religion/spirituality: how is this part of her environmental vision? Consider a passage where we can grasp this element of her writing. In the end, how do we characterize Dillard’s vision?

W 10/26

F 10/28

  • Due:American Earth:  N. Scott Momaday, “A First American Views His Land” (p. 570) + Terry Tempest Williams, excerpt from Refuge (p. 739) + Blog
  • Consider: In the blog, put Dillard into conversation with James or Momaday or Williams or Purpura
    • No class meeting today. Virtual class: Have your blog posted by 10.30 am (our normal class time). By 3.30 pm, Read and briefly comment on the blogs from the other members of your reading Group (listed here). You can get to the blogs here, Student Blogs 2016.


M 10/31

    • Due: chapter from Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (pdf, part 1 and 2) in Canvas. You will meet in class (Lit House) for a discussion about Nixon’s work with Professor Andrew Case. Attendance required.
    • Consider: Two questions you should be prepared to raise (and answer) in discussion with Prof. Case. 1]How could Nixon’s conception of “slow violence” and “environmentalism of the poor” be used to critique or evaluate Dillard? How might it apply to her? Prof. Case knows Nixon’s work, but has not been reading Dillard, so you will have to make the case for him. If you were to use Nixon for your critical connection in Project 2, what idea would you forward? 2]Nixon (and Prof. Case’s own) interest in the environmental humanities (which he analogizes with the ecotone and edge effect-p. 30): what sort of interdisciplinary projects do Nixon’s ideas inspire–if you were to pursue a final project (or an SCE project) that is inspired by his idea of a “scholarly ecotone,” what might you do?

W 11/2

  • Due: Draft, Writing Project 2 (submitted to Canvas by 10.30 am) + read critical perspective on Dillard: Diana Saverin, “The Thoreau of the Suburbs”
    • No meeting in class. Virtual Class: Read and respond to the writers in your group by Wednesday, 5 pm
  • Consider: Read/consult the post on my blog focused on some revision strategies for the project, including further discussion of counterargument, as well as the earlier post on particle/wave/field.

F 11/4

  • Due: Writing Project #2: final version due Saturday noon. 
  • Consider: No meeting in class. Read/consult the post on my blog focused on editing strategies. I also highly recommend you schedule a consultation at the Writing Center to get some additional feedback for editing. To guide your editing, use the Writer’s Diet test to give attention to using active verbs and cutting back clutter that we create sometime with too many nouns and prepositions. This tool can help you focus on the specificity of your language as well as sentence variation.


Part 3: Contemporary Ecocriticism (Environmental Philosophy)

M 11/7

  • Due: American Earth: David Abram, “The Ecology of Magic” (p. 815)
  • Consider:

W 11/9

  • Due: Advising Day–no class.
  • Consider:

F 11/11

  • Due: Wendell Berry (all selections in American Earth) +   Berry “Renewing Husbandry” [linked here]) and “The Pleasures of Eating” + blog: focus on Berry, provide a summary of various essays read as well as a focal point for understanding his vision and ethics by focusing on one or two of them.
  • Consider: Recommended–for those looking for more Berry, here’s a piece that engages with politics, “Thoughts in the Presence of Fear,” responding to 9/11.


M 11/14

  • Due: Singer and Mason, The Ethics of What We Eat: Introduction, chapters 1, 2 and one more of your choice from part 1 (chapter 3, 4, or 5)
  • Consider: As we work on exploring this ethical perspective on food (the ethos), think about Singer and Mason’s evidence (their logos). What evidence do they offer that persuades? that surprises? that you disagree with?

W 11/16

  • Due: Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism: chapter 4, “The Ethics and Politics of Environmental Criticism”
  • Consider: How might we connect Buell’s overview of the ethics of environmental writing with Singer and Mason? For additional (recommended, not required) reading on Singer’s ethical philosophy known as “animal liberation,” read his overview “The Animal Liberation Movement.”

F 11/18

  • Due:  The Ethics of What We Eat: part 2 (chapter 6, 7, and one other chapter of your choice) + Blog
  • Consider: As we continue to think about evidence/logos, also consider pathos: a passage that engages your attention by way of feeling, empathy–a part of the book thus far that you find particularly compelling (or perhaps the reverse. least compelling)


M 11/21

  • Due: The Ethics of What We Eat: part 3
  • Consider: As you finish the book, give particular attention to the final 2 chapters that elaborate the ethics of food these authors propose.

W 11/23 [Thanksgiving Break]

F 11/25 [Thanksgiving Break]


M 11/28

  • Due: Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness” [linked here] + Carolyn Finney, “Jungle Fever” from Black Faces, White Spaces (pdf) + Tom Horton, “What is Natural, What is Right” (Bay Country) [pdf]
  • Consider: Recommended: A conversation between Cronon and Michael Pollan, “Out of the Wild”

W 11/30

  • Due: Buell, chapter 5, “Environmental Criticism’s Future” + Further reading in American EarthSelect at least one new piece from the anthology, and be prepared to share it with the rest of us in class. Work on the mini-project due Friday.
  • Consider:

Thursday, 12/1: Carolyn Finney lecture: Black Faces, White Spaces. Litrenta Lecture Hall, 5 pm

F 12/2

  • Due: Ethics mini-project (posted to blog)
    • Mini-project: The Ethics of What We Eat.
    • Option 1: Philosophy. A philosophical blog post, engaging with the philosophy of The Ethics of What We Eat in order to explore and develop your food ethic. An expanded response to Singer and Mason [500-750 words]
    • Option 2: Investigative Journalism. Following the lead of Singer and Mason and the ways they investigate and track individual food consumption and sources, explore some of the food you eat at Washington College? Can you track where your food comes from? If you want to make more ethical decisions about the food you eat (in the ways that Singer and Mason propose) is that possible to do here at the college? Why or why not? You could also follow Horton’s lead and focus on another issue that relates you and the College to the larger context of the Chesapeake [500-750 words]
    • Option 3: New Media Essay. Post a brief video or audio (2-3 minutes) or photo-essay to your blog, in some way representing/conveying/exploring the “ethics of what we eat”–perspectives on what this means, what the problems are, perhaps solutions. To provide some context, include a preface (100 words) of what you have set out to do here–making a connection to Singer and Mason.


M 12/5

  • Due: Final Project: Proposal Due (submitted to Canvas) + begin Further Reading presentations in class
  • Consider:  Contents of the Proposal:
    • Step 1: Initial proposal (1-2 pages/300-500 words)
      1. Keyword Composting: Select 7 Keywords from our list (and/or the glossary in Buell) and define each with an example from one of our texts (a quotation or paraphrase that best demonstrates it). From these, pick at least 3 that seem most relevant and/or useful to your final project ideas, and explain why, what you might do with this concept in the project.
      2. Mentor: Identify one or two authors from the course who will serve as a guide for this project: why? what aspect of this writer’s work do you imagine citing/integrating into your project? In what ways might your project be modeled on this writer’s work or ethos?
      3. Further Reading: Do some initial research for the project, locating (and citing) at least 1 or 2 texts that you might read for additional reading into a topic, an author, an issue that could provide you with logos.
      4. Abstract of your idea: write a paragraph that summarizes what you are setting out to do with this project–at least for now, subject to change.
      5. Any questions you have at this point, to guide feedback from your writing group and from me.

W 12/7  [Final Class]

  • Due: Final Project: Further reading, initial drafting. Your first draft is due (submitted to Canvas) by Thursday 5pm; should be at least 3 pages. Peer Review: You will read and comment upon the drafts from your writing group by Friday 5 pm. Use as a model for your response to the drafts: what’s the project? what’s working? what else? what’s next?
  • Consider:


Final Project due by (or before) Thursday, December 15, 9 am  submitted to Canvas and posted to your blog–with a link to the Class Magazine on my blog.


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