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  • All assignments are due in class/by class time on the date unless otherwise indicated (Writing Projects); the “Questions” are provided to guide your response to reading you are expected to begin in your Journal. For each class, bring your Journal and the text assigned. 

Part 1: Sounding Walden (Environmental Poetics)

M 8/27/18

  • Due: First Class.  Introduction to thinking about the environment as readers and writers, which in part means rethinking our familiar conceptions and perceptions of humans, nature, art, science, reality, imagination. Read through the course syllabus and information available on Earth’s Eye. Also, read this book review for a sense of what such rethinking might look like: “The Heroes of this Novel are Centuries Old and 300 Feet Tall.” 
  • Questions: For discussion in class, consider what associations and definitions you have for words such as “nature,” “culture,” “environment,” “science,” “art.” This is a course on environmental writing, what do you expect that to be about?

W 8/29

  • Due: Read Tom Horton, “What is Natural, What is Right” (Canvas link) + John Burroughs, “The Art of Seeing Things” (Canvas link; also in American Earth, p. 146) +  Wendell Berry, “Solving for Pattern” (Canvas link)
  • Questions: Some initial definitions of what we are likely to encounter in exploring relations between literature/writing and the environment. What are your initial senses of what environmental writing literature is about?  What understanding of the environment and/or ecology does Berry’s and Snyder’s and Horton’s perspective provide us? What are keywords or 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 8/31

  • Due: Read Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism: preface + chapter 1 (“The Emergence of Environmental Criticism”)
  • Questions: 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 9/3

  • Due: Read Thoreau, Walden, “Economy” (at least half of this first chapter)
  • Questions: You will need to use your journal deliberately throughout your reading of this text. A couple things you can note/respond to each time you read. 1]Identify a word or phrase or image (maybe a metaphor or analogy) that provokes a thought or gives you something to grasp–and make note of it; 2]Identify a paragraph that you grasp, or at least seems to make sense, with regard to a larger point in the chapter, a sense of what Thoreau is doing in this project; 3]Questions: write down any and all questions–good for discussion in class.

W 9/5

  • 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.
  • Questions:

F 9/7

  • Due: Thoreau, Walden: “Economy” and “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”  (the first two chapters) + Blog.
  • Questions: 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 9/10

  • Due: Walden: read the chapters “Reading” through “The Village”
  • Questions: 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 9/12

  • Due: Walden: read “The Ponds” through “Higher Laws”
  • Questions: 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 9/14

  • 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.
  • Questions: Note the ways these chapters give close-up views of Walden, very empirical; but also pull way back, into symbol. What do you notice about the ecological detail? How does Thoreau also turn such descriptiveness toward symbol and imagination?



M 9/17

  • Due: Walden: “Spring” + “Conclusion”
  • Questions: We will give our attention to the intense focus on thawing sand in “Spring”; worth a slow, deliberate reading and re-reading. What’s going on here? How does this chapter serve the larger argument or purpose of the book? Regarding the conclusion: Where does Thoreau leave us? Does the experiment fail or succeed?

W 9/19

Field Experience: Chester River boat trip–for journal writing and observation at Devil’s Reach. Meet at the Boathouse at 2.50 pm. Will be finished by 4.30 pm.


F 9/21

  • 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 Thoreau’s project, and how your conclusions compare/contrast with Schulz and/or Purdy.
    • Questions: 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?


Writing Project 1: Deliberate Reading of Walden

M 9/24

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.” Bring to class your journal with materials for composting your ideas toward the draft due Wednesday. 

For those without the Norton Walden, you can find Buell’s essay in Canvas (linked here).

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 9/26

  • Due: Initial drafting of Writing Project. Submit to Canvas a 2-3 page draft; include at the top the abstract of your argument: Context, Problem, Response.
  • Guidelines: Peer response due by Thursday noon. See guidelines for peer response in Canvas. Bring draft to class for workshop.

F 9/28

  • Due: Friday in class, bring latest draft for editing workshop + to guide your further revision and editing, read this discussion of “Introductions and Conclusions.”
    •  Writing Project #1 (Deliberate Reading) due by Saturday noon [submitted to Canvas]. At the top or bottom of the project, include a brief Abstract: a short paragraph summarizing the argument: the Context, the Problem, and the Response. Also include an indication an element of your writing that you believe is strong and working, and one element that you want some feedback on in order to develop further or strengthen.


Part 2: Thoreau’s Neighbors (Environmental Rhetoric)

M 10/1

  • Due: Ralph Waldo Emerson, chapter 1 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); George Perkins Marsh, from Man and Nature (71).
  • Questions: What’s familiar and different in these other environmental perspectives? Identify at least one idea that seems familiar, one different or new. Cooper and Emerson write in the years just before Thoreau publishes Walden, and Whitman the year after, while Marsh published two years after Thoreau’s death.

W 10/3

  • Due: American Earth: John Muir, “A Wind Storm in the Forest” (p. 89) + Dr. Carl Gallegos, “Urban and Community Forest Master Plan”  + Leakey, “Trees: Much More than the Lungs of the World” (Canvas link)
  • Questions: Muir’s is a leading voice and vision of American environmental writing and thought that emerges in the early 20th century–a founding father of the National Parks. What’s the vision? What’s noticeable in the voice, the way the writing works (its rhetoric as well as its poetics)? We will give particular attention to Muir’s vision of trees–what can we learn from him  that we could apply to our understanding of the trees in our midst? Does Muir live on in the vision of urban forestry for Chestertown?
    • Field Experience: meet on the plaza in front of the library for a conversation about trees on campus with Carl Gallegos, a local environmental leader who produced the Urban Forest Management Plan for Chestertown.

F 10/5

  • 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]
  • Questions: 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 10/8

  • Due: Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: chapters 1, 2. Note: I will collect journals at the end of class for a brief review (incorporated into midterm progress) and return on Wednesday.
  • Questions: 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.


W 10/10

  • Due: Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: chapters 3, 4
  • Questions: 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 10/12

  • Due:  Fall Break/no class


M 10/15

  • Due: Pilgrim: chapters 5-8
  • Questions: 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 10/17

  • Due: Buell, chapter 3, “Space, Place, and Imagination from Local to Global” in The Future of Environmental Criticism  
  • Questions: What are the definitions of “space,” “place,” and “non-place” according to Buell? Apply each concept to something we have encountered in Dillard or Thoreau and/or from your own encounters in the world.

F 10/19

  • Due: Pilgrim: chapters 9-12 + blog. You can use this blog to being to explore some ideas for your writing project (Dillard’s vision).
  • Questions: give particular attention to chapter 10, “Fecundity.” Dillard refers to fecundity as the dark side of intricacy. What passages in the chapter, and elsewhere in the book, suggest that darkness?


M 10/22

  • Due: Pilgrim: finish the book.
  • Questions: 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 10/24

F 10/26

  • Due:American Earth:  N. Scott Momaday, “A First American Views His Land” (p. 570) + Terry Tempest Williams, excerpt from Refuge (p. 739) + Blog
  • Questions: In the blog, put Dillard into conversation with James or Momaday or Williams or Purpura. Think about comparative-perspective and counter-perpsective, what do these other writers help us to see about Dillard’s project and vision?


Writing Project 2

M 10/29

  • Due: Read American Earth: Melloy, “The Flora and Fauna of Las Vegas” (793) + Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (898) + + read critical perspective on Dillard: Diana Saverin, “The Thoreau of the Suburbs”
  • Questions: Melloy and Ray take us to places not typically observed by classical environmentalism. In what way does their vision differ from Dillard’s? Does it also develop from Dillard’s vision in some way?

W 10/31

  • Due: Draft, Writing Project 2 (submitted to Canvas) 
  • Guidelines: 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 11/2

  • Due: Writing Project #2: final version due Saturday noon. 
  • Guidelines: 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, and help you think about your sentences (as Dillard would want), read “Revising Style.”


Part 3: Contemporary Ecocriticism (Environmental Philosophy)

M 11/5

  • Due: American Earth: David Abram, “The Ecology of Magic” (p. 815) + Peter Singer, “The Animal Liberation Movement” [linked here]
  • Questions: Both philosophers argue for a perspective that is “more than human” or extends beyond the human. What’s an element of the reasoning or evidence presented that you find persuasive, or that you find unpersuasive?

W 11/7

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

F 11/9 [Case Study: Wendell Berry]


M 11/12

  • Due: Read Silko, Ceremony, first 40 pages.
  • Questions: Where are we? As you get your bearings in the novel (its location, its plot, its characters), begin to consider the ways that the environment is more than just background or setting, or where there is an ethical or philosophical perspective to land/environment that is different from what you are used to seeing in a novel. Point to an example.

W 11/14

  • Due: Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism: chapter 4, “The Ethics and Politics of Environmental Criticism”
  • Questions: How might we connect Buell’s overview of the ethics and politics of environmental writing with Silko’s Ceremony?

F 11/16

  • Due:  Read Ceremony, to page 100  + Blog
  • Questions: As you pursue your closer reading of Ceremony in your blog, apply an idea or insight from Buell to develop your interpretation.


M 11/19

  • Due: Read Ceremony, to page 150
  • Questions:

W 11/21 [Thanksgiving Break]

F 11/23 [Thanksgiving Break]


M 11/26

  • Due: Finish Ceremony
  • Questions: Where are we at the end? Where does Silko leave us as readers? Characterize Silko’s environmental or “eco-critical” perspective as a writer–and point to an example where you see it at work.

W 11/28

F 11/30

  • Due: Buell, chapter 5, “Environmental Criticism’s Future” + Rebecca Solnit, “The Thoreau Problem” (American Earth, 971) + Blog: My environmental philosophy/ethics. To develop your philosophy, put it in conversation with at least one of the authors we have read in the course.
  • Questions: In class we will have a debate about our environmental ethics/philosophies. What writer/ecocritic from this course most informs or aligns with your philosophy? Cronon, Silko, Berry, Dillard, Thoreau, Emerson, etc.


M 12/3

  • Due: Final Project: Proposal Due (submitted to Canvas) + read this interview with Dr. Van Meter, “Scientific Writing is Challenging and Can Inspire Change.” You will present your proposal in class.
  • Guidelines:  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. As part of this further reading, read at least one more selection from American Earth.
      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 12/5  [Final Class]

  • Due: Final Project: Further reading, initial drafting. Your first draft is due (submitted to Canvas) by 5pm; should be at least 2-3 pages. Bring to class whatever you have to begin generating some feedback.
  • Peer Review: You will read and comment upon the drafts from your writing group by Thursday 5 pm. Use as a model for your response to the drafts: what’s the project? what’s working? what else? what’s next?


Final Project: due Wednesday December 12, 9 am submitted to Canvas. 


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