Nature Writing: Arcadia, Wilderness, and Crisis

How does our relationship with nature shape the way we define ourselves and our place in the world?  What unique perspectives do writers and artists bring to an exploration of this foundational connection between self-identity and nature?  Beginning with the ancient mythic space of Arcadia, we will follow the evolution of nature writing from harmonious visions of humanity’s existence in a state of nature to modern idealizations of rural life. Next, we consider the concept of wilderness, as readings take us through terrains that inspire awe and wonder, allowing us to explore themes of hardship, survival, introspection, and self-discovery.  Finally, we confront the urgent theme of humanity and nature in crisis, addressing issues like climate change and environmental degradation. Analyzing works that grapple with ecological challenges, we provide critical insights into the intersections of literature, science, and activism.  Through carefully selected examples of nature writing, this course will foster discussions about our evolving relationship with the environment as well as placed-based opportunities to write about our personal connection to the natural world as it touches us in our daily lives. 

This course is designed to appeal broadly to entering undergraduate students, from those who have a declared interest in the humanities to others who may just be interested in thinking more about the many ways in our sense of self is shaped by our relationship to the natural world.  The course is also conceived as a complement to more scientific approaches to studying the natural world, and I am eager to recruit STEM students for the unique perspective that they will bring to our discussions.

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5 credits of Arts and Humanities coursework towards the Areas of Inquiry requirement.