ENGL 394
The Nature of Nature Fall 2024
Division I
Cross-listed ENVI 390

Class Details

“Nature” is one of the commonest 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 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 ethical dimensions of contemporary environmental consciousness and unconsciousness. Writers studied will include Elizabeth Kolbert, Descartes, William Cronon, and Charles Darwin.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 25
Expected: 25
Class#: 1652
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Several short exercises, two six-page comparative essays, and a final self-designed project, subject to my approval. Active participation in class. The final project should explore something serious -- about nature, about yourself -- in ways that are not merely verbal or academic, but instead involve a sense of risk.
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:
ENGL 394 Division I ENVI 390 Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
ENVI Humanities, Arts + Social Science Electives

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