ENVI 291 Spring 2013 Religion and the American Environmental Imagination (W)

Cross Listed as REL291, SOC291
This course examines the relationship between religious and environmental thought in the modern United States. Focusing on the complex and closely linked legacies of Christianity, secularism, and popular spirituality, we will explore the religious and anti-religious roots of contemporary environmental discourse. Along the way, we will pursue a set of vexing questions about environmental thought: Is environmentalism a religion? If so, what kind of religion is it? If not, why not (and why do we even ask)? Is anti-environmentalism religiously motivated? Could religion be the cause of our ecological crisis? Could it be the solution? For answers, we will look to the writings of thinkers such as John Muir, Edward Abbey, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, and Wendell Berry, as well as a number of lesser-known authors. We will read these authors alongside recent scholarship in the social sciences and humanities to understand how their thinking was influenced by social and environmental trends such as urbanization, industrialization, immigration, and globalization. We will also ask how religion has intersected with gender, race, class, and ethnicity to shape environmental politics in the twenty-first century. Finally, we will pay particularly close attention to episodes of conflict and cooperation between the environmental movement and religious conservatives during the past forty years, and we will analyze popular religious media from this period alongside the writings and visual productions of environmentalists.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: two short essays and one long (15-18-page) research paper
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Prerequisites: Environmental Studies 101 or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preference: Environmental Studies majors and concentrators
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Divisional Attributes: Division II, Writing Intensive
Other Attributes: ENVI Humanities, Arts + Social Science Electives
Enrollment Limit: 19
Expected Enrollment: 19
Class Number: 3362
ENVI291-01(S) SEM Religion and Environment (W) Division 2: Social StudiesWriting Intensive Nicolas C. Howe
MR 1:10 PM-2:25 PM Greylock A 3362
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