ENG 310 Studies in Literary Genres: American Nature Writing
Even in the twenty-first century, Americans remain haunted by the power and beauty of their landscapes and by the idea of wilderness. Thoreau’s gnomic statement, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world,” still has some currency in our culture. While Americans are far from forging a common environmental ethic, the attempt continues, especially in the face of our growing awareness of the fragility of earth’s ecosystems, and the power of our technologies to subdue and destroy them. In this course, we will read a few essential classic texts--Thoreau’s “Walking” and Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac to get our bearings, but the focus will be on texts of the late twentieth century to the present. We will read such nonfiction works as Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire and Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge; fictions such as Seth Kantner’s 2004 novel, Ordinary Wolves, and various stories by Rick Bass; and Gary Snyder’s poetry collection, Turtle Island . We will also read some poetry and fiction by Nicaraguan writers, Ernesto Cardenal and Gioconda Belli. The course will also introduce students to the practice of ecocriticism. We will read the texts as literary works of art, but also as explorations of the connections between humans and the natural world, of nature and spirit, of environmental ethics and justice, and of arguments for the preservation of the natural world. Writer Terry Tempest Williams will visit our class as part of her presence at Wabash in March.