Writing about the environment and earth now crosses genres to include the mythopoetic, nature writing, science writing and fiction. In this course, we will read and write about the earth and nature from many perspectives reflecting a myriad of genres which examine how humans interpret the world. Using the text, American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, we will focus on the chronology of nature writing from its earliest origins to more contemporary nature writing which is informed by science. Writing about the earth has increasingly included scientific perspective which attempts to illuminate the workings of the non-human world. This emphasis has emerged during the time of environmental crisis as humans finally understand the impact, we have had on the planet which has seriously compromised its continuity and health.
The second component of this course will focus on and enhance our understanding of the environments we visit. Looking ahead, we will read an exciting array of literature: from South African writer J.M. Coetzee’s Lives of Animals, from Malaysian writer Cecil Rajendra Feathers and Bones. We will consider environmental issues in the work Eye of the Earth by Nivi Osundare and look at Japan through the lens of writer Cathy N. Davidson in 36 Views of Mount Fuji. We will read Indian writer Perumal Murugand’s Season of the Palm. In considering these authors, we will reflect on our impressions of the culture and environment in contrast to those offered by these writers. Students will engage in both reflective and analytical writing as they investigate and report on their reading and on their voyage experiences.
Field WorkCountry: South Africa
Date: March 18, 2020
In this field class, we will visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for nearly two decades, and have a chance to speak with others who were imprisoned on this famous island. We will also visit the District Six Museum and learn more about politics, slavery, and marginalization in South Africa. Reading Mandela’s account in The Long Walk to Freedom, we will gain a sense of the environment Mandela endured for 27 years and the circumstances which contributed to his writing. We will speculate about writing and environment, how place shapes theme, content, and style. After all, apartheid was not only about infringement of freedom but access to land (the environment), food (of the land), and equal rights.
1. Learn about the history of Robben Island and its famous political prisoners
2. Think about the effect of place on writing: prison as restricting access to environment
3. Explore how the book would have been different had Mandela not been in prison