Munroe – ENGL 6070

ENGL 6070: “Thinking Green”

Course Description:

In this theory-intensive course, we will read primary texts about and discuss ecological approaches to texts and problems, both historical and contemporary. This course will familiarize students with these multiple approaches to thinking about the implications of how the human/nonhuman relationship is represented in texts (literary and not), from the past and present, and how such representations inform and are informed by such things as the development of scientific discourse, colonial expansion, and global climate change. Beginning in the 90s, “Ecocriticism” became a field of inquiry adopted by literary scholars, in which scholars aimed to identify the relationship between humans and nature in literary texts. Other “eco” approaches have emerged over time, including ecofeminism (which in fact predated ecocriticism as such a field of study), queer ecocriticism, and postcolonial ecocriticism, which focus on how the human/nonhuman relationship intersect with issues of gender, race, and colonialism. We will track the historical development of these theoretical approaches as well as consider various applications of them to different texts and problems.


This class is, at its core, an experiment, our classroom and the spaces we occupy outside it a laboratory for exploring ideas and creating new knowledge. We must challenge what we think we know in order to approach situations, people, and texts with fresh perspectives. Being in this class means that you make yourself vulnerable to the complexity of problems, take risks and work together to consider multiple perspectives with sensitivity that result not in the answer but rather informed and likely conflicting positions; we will encounter these positions collaboratively and with the idea that both problems and their solutions are perpetually in flux. To do so is to innovate. We cannot know at the outset what the result of this experiment will be, but I am proud to be part of it with you this semester.


**As this course is experimental in nature, I reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus and specific assignments (with reasonable notice) if/when I decide that it will be in the best interest of our exploration to modify our approach and/or readings.

1/7:     Intro to course

1/14:   Nature/Culture

Reading:          Haraway, “When Species Meet: Introductions”

Soper, “Nature and ‘Nature’”

Assignment:     Reading response


1/21:   Nature/Culture

Readings:         Morton, “Introduction: Toward a Theory of Ecological Criticism”

Alaimo, “Bodily Natures”


Assignment:     Reading Response


1/28:   NO CLASS


2/4:     Ecofeminism

Reading:          Sturgeon, “Introduction” and “Movements of Ecofeminism?”

Soper, “Nature and Sexual Politics”

Yates, Revolutionary Road


Assignment:     Reading Response

Presentation 1

Blog 1 due


2/11:   Ecofeminism

Reading:         Plumwood, “Nature in the Active Voice”:

Shiva, from Staying Alive


Assignment:     Reading Response

Presentation 2

Blog 2 due


2/18:   SNOW

Blog 3 due

2/25:   SNOW


3/4:     No Class: Spring Break


3/11:   Transcription in class

Readings:         Cambridge site on paleography:

Assigned page from manuscript recipe book (TBA)

Assignment:     Tutorial on paleography

Transcription of one recipe from assigned page (TBA) (will be a                                                         response grade)

First journals due


3/18:   Queer Ecocriticism

Readings:         Mortimer-Sandilands and Erickson: “Introduction: A Genealogy of

Queer Ecologies”

Alaimo, “Eluding Capture: The Science, Culture, and Pleasure of

‘Queer’ Animals”

Ingram, “Fragments, Edges, and Matrices”


Assignment:     Reading Response

Presentation 3


3/25:   Race/Postcolonial Ecocriticism

Readings:         Shiva, from Staying Alive

Huggan and Tiffin, “Introduction”

Alaimo, “Invisible Matters”

Chen, “Lead’s Racial Matters”

                                    The Tempest


Assignment:     Reading Response

Presentation 4

Blog 4 due


4/1:     No Class (I will be at the Shakespeare Association of America Conference in

                        Vancouver, CA and will have slower-than-usual access to email)

            Abstracts Due by 5pm


4/8:     The Other/The Thing:

Reading:          Bennett, “The Agency of Assemblages”

Latour, “Why Political Ecology Has to Let Go of Nature”

Latour, “The Parliament of Things”


Assignment:     Reading Response

Presentation 5

Blog 5 due


4/15:   Discuss Abstracts

            Reading:          Have read and be ready to discuss everyone’s abstracts


Assignment:     The same


4/22:   Sharing Work/Class Debrief

            Paper workshop

            Second journals due


4/29: Papers Due (NO CLASS, though)




Presentation (100pts; due date depending):

You will sign up to present during one of our class meetings. You will choose a “text” to help us think through readings for that week and present for 15 min.

Weekly responses (100pts):

Each week you will prepare for class by writing a substantial post (2-4 solid, thoughtful paragraphs at least) about what you found difficult, confusing, and/or provocative and insightful about the readings we are doing. The idea here is that you will begin to engage with what in many cases and dense and difficult readings in direct and thoughtful ways that we will continue to flesh out during class discussion. You will post these responses in Moodle by the Monday before our class meets by 5 pm so that we all have time to read them. You are also welcome to begin our class discussion by posting to each others’ responses.


Journal (100pts; due 2/25 and 4/22):

Because one of the goals of this class is to think about our relationship with the nonhuman world differently, you will keep a journal that records time you spend reflecting on these issues in your own life–right here, right now. This assignment asks us to be aware of our living environment wherever we are. At least once a week go for a half-hour walk/sit-down and NOTICE things. Take pictures, whether with a camera or with words or your mind. Hear birds? What do they SOUND like? How many DIFFERENT birds do you hear? What do you see and smell? How does the air feel on your skin? Describe. Engage. Once a month, try to get to a place that has a different environment. If you live in the city, get out of its bounds. If out of the city, vice versa. How does this change your relationship to the environment? Are you seeing more, or less?


After your walk in the woods/down the street or sit in your backyard/park write a hundred word (or more) account of what you learned by being with your living environment. Consider not just what you observe but also how your own race/class/gender position may seem to inform what you experience in and/or access to these spaces. The idea is that you will reflect on and experience space and the human/nonhuman interconnection in more mindful and new ways over the course of the semester. I will collect these journals twice during the semester. Begin each entry with the date that you wrote it.


Environmental justice blog (200pts total; due date depending):

Choose a contemporary environmental justice issue and do a close reading of a “text” related to it, considering its implications from the perspective of race, class, and/or gender. How, for example, does the text you choose draw on/reify/challenge/otherwise represent not just the general concerns about human/nonhuman relationships, but also how those relationships are inflected by race, class, and/or gender? In other words, how does that text betray a perspective that is not just “human” in a universal sense, but that is shaped by and shapes subject positions that are more complicated than a universal can articulate? What “position” is the text written from, for instance, and what “position/s” does it reinforce?



Possible topics:


Toxic waste


Keystone XL pipeline

Food deserts

Food waste


In your blog, you will include a link (or full text if it is short) to the “text” you are close reading. You will produce a 300-500 word analysis that you will post on the public blog each week. 150 of the total 200 points will be for your blog post. The remaining 50 points will come from your engagement with others’ posts. The idea is that we continue our class conversation on the blog to become more informed about environmental justice issues relevant to us today as well as use others’ posts to think more about how we might close read a variety of “texts” related to them.


Seminar Paper (15-20 pages) (500pts; due 4/15):

You will write a seminar paper on a topic of your choosing that engages with issues related to class. A full assignment will follow.


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