Course Description: EngL 1201W-001

Contemporary American Literature

(EngL 1201W-001; MWTh 8-11 am, June 16-August 8, 2008)

Earn Lib Ed requirements: Cultural Diversity, Literature Core, Writing Intensive.

Take a morning class and still have time to work.

Read some enjoyable and intriguing books.

Spend some time outside.

This section of EngL 1201W will focus on how American literature engages with nature, both directly and indirectly. How has the American environment been present in literature, especially since 1960? In what texts, and why, does nature function as a threat, a promise, a victim, and a saint? How do concerns about nature overlap--and possibly conflict--with recent cultural concerns about gender, ethnicity, and sexuality?

We will read novels, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction that specifically address the subject of the natural world and Americans’ relation to it, such as Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer. Just as important will be texts that are not obviously “ecoliterature," such as Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.

As we explore literary and cultural theory, ecological criticism will provide one framework in which to view this course’s texts. The practice of ecocriticism will allow us to open up texts to other ways of reading and understanding them. How can we use ecocriticism to address issues of racial, sexual, and economic injustice?

Possible course texts:

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (excerpts)
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (excerpts)

Grizzly Man

Plus poetry, criticism and theory, literary and historical contexts, field trips.