ENGL 394
The Nature of Nature Fall 2023
Division I
Cross-listed ENVI 390
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Class Details

“Nature” is one of the most common words in English. And yet what does it mean? Is it primarily descriptive (all living things), or normative (“natural” foods, “human nature”)? This course will consider some of the richly incoherent ways we think about the living world, paying particular attention to the difficulty of narrating processes that are too big, too small, too quick, or too slow for direct human apprehension. We’ll explore the way popular nature writing mingles scientific reporting with implicit and explicit judgments about human identity, and take up the insoluble problem of our proper relation to animals. Considerable attention will be paid to the racial, cultural and class dimensions of contemporary forms of environmental consciousness. Writers studied will include Elizabeth Kolbert, Jem Bedell, William Cronon, and Charles Darwin. We’ll also consider the intermediations of nature and technology in documentaries by David Attenborough and Lynette Wallworth, among others.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 25
Expected: 25
Class#: 1853
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Several short written exercises, an eight page comparative midterm essay, and a final twelve to fifteen page essay incorporating audiovisual materials. Active participation in class.
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preferences: English majors; Environmental Studies majors and concentrators; Philosophy majors.
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENVI 390 Division I ENGL 394 Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
ENVI Humanities, Arts + Social Science Electives

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