GHUM 200: Literature, Nature, and the Environment


Dr. Castellano 3 credits

          This course will explore literary representations of humans interacting with their natural environments. Prompted by Wordsworth’s confident assertion that “the love of nature leads to the love of mankind,” we will read Romantic poetry and question why the Romantics thought “being in nature” had a morally ameliorative effect on human beings. We will also encounter how conceptions of nature change within modernity as a result of the colonization of Africa and India and the advancement of scientific experimentation. “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere,” Frankenstein, and Heart of Darkness describe different ways that human beings explore the natural world in order to gain geographic or scientific knowledge, posing the question of whether there is a difference between the exploration and the exploitation of nature. This course will also evaluate non-fiction accounts of human relationships with nature: Thomas Malthus apocalyptically prophesies that the natural world cannot support a burgeoning human population, and Wendell Berry’s activist prose advocates a return to rural localism. Finally, this course will not only question whether “being in nature” is morally efficacious but also whether human beings have an ethical responsibility to minimize their impact on the environment. In addition to more conventional papers and a mid-term exam, your final assignment will to make use the eco-critical concepts found in this literature to evaluate the rhetorical uses of nature in contemporary media.

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