Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Re-creating Our World: Vision, Voice, Value

Anne Dalke's picture

English 216 -- Re-creating Our World: Vision, Voice, Value
Spring Semester 2014: Monday-Wednesday, 2:30-4, English House II
One in a 360° cluster of courses on Eco-Literacy,
co-taught with Ava Blitz, Jody Cohen and David Ross
Notes towards class discussion
Password Protected File of Readings
Instructions for Preparing Final Portfolios

Yarn Storm, Bryn Mawr Campus, Spring 2012 (photo by Anne Dalke)

"We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.
And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly" (Martin Luther King, Jr.,
"Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution," 1968).

To this shared project, the discipline of English literary studies will contribute an awareness of the limits and possibilities of representation, asking what is foregrounded, what backgrounded or omitted, in each verbal, visual, aural or tactile re-presentation of the world. Asking, too, what might be imagined that has not yet been experienced, “Re-creating Our World” invites students both to create their own multi-modal representations of the spaces they occupy, and to re-create, in some way, the space that is Bryn Mawr.

This new course offers a shared exploration of imaginative images and texts, with a global reach and in a range of genres (photography, poetry, multiple narratives...). On field trips to local sites, we will also study “representations” of the world in the form of various "shaped spaces," including The Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, John James Audubon's house @ Mill GroveWissahickon Valley ParkChanticleer (a pleasure garden in Wayne), and the Laurel Hill Cemetery. 

Assisted by visual artist Ava Blitz (who uses the camera and the computer as draftman’s/printmaker’s instruments) we will create our own verbal and visual representations of those spaces. Our orientation in reading, representing and re-creating these texts, images and spaces will be that of second-wave environmental criticism, which acknowledges both ecocultural complexity -- the ways the ecocritic cannot be extricated from social institutions -- and the "long mixed up" quality of natural and built environments, with a particular focus on urban landscapes. 

Required reading includes four book-length texts: Eli Clare's Exile and Pride (2009), Ruth Ozeki's All Over Creation (2003), J.M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals (1999), and Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide (2005)The remainder of our readings and viewings (including 10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life) are either available on-line or in our password-protected site.

Students will be asked to post, on Serendip, short weekly reflections extending our class conversations about the readings, and to create four more sustained web events: 5-pp. (1250 words) of reflection due on Sunday evenings (Jan. 26,  Feb. 23, Apr. 6, and Apr. 27), as well as two visual projects (due on Mar. 24 and Apr. 21).  At the end of the semester, you will complete a checklist, final portfolio, and self-evaluation.

Part I: Inside/Out; or, what's home got to do with it?

"...our greatest challenge lies not out there, but in here." (Chris Jordan, Midway: A Message from the Gyre)

"The real, material ecological also a crisis of representation. The inability of political cultures to address environmentalism is in part a failure of narrative" (Richard Kerridge and Neil Sammells, Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature, 1998).

Week 1
Mon, Jan. 20: MLKing Day Field trip to The Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden, NJ

Day 1: Wed, Jan. 22 Clarifying and complexifying our terms

By 5 p.m. Wednesday, log on to your Serendip account, select a password you can remember, a
username and an avatar. Use the image (and some of our newly defined eco-terms?) to introduce yourself
by posting a paragraph on our course forum.

By 5 p.m. on Sun, Jan. 26: post on-line a 5-pp. description of where "home" is, where you "belong."
Be thoughtful about your language, and consider what larger claims you might use your story to make
(or questions you might use it to provoke), in describing your own experience.

Week 2 
Day 2: Mon, Jan 27 discussion of our essays on belonging

bell hooks. Preface: To Know Where I Am Going, Chapter 1: Kentucky is my Fate, and Chapter 20: Habits of the Heart. Belonging: A Culture of Place. Routledge, 2008. 1-24, 215-223.

Eli Clare. Part I: Place. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation. Brooklyn: South End Press, 2009.

Day 3: Wed, Jan 29 Eli Clare. Part II: Bodies. Exile and Pride.

Lorenzo Triburgo, Transportraits.

Ava Blitz will join us for the last 1/2 an hour of class, to help us prepare for the trip to Tinicum.

7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 Public Lecture on "Remaking the Landscape:
The Art and Science of Ava Blitz." English House Lecture Hall.

10-a.m.-2 p.m, Fri. Jan 31: Field Trip to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

5 p.m. Sun, Feb. 2:
a paragraph reflecting on where you see evidence of "exile" in 3 essays about "home"
(yours and two of your classmates): look for the "cracks," the "displacements," the places where
the writers testify to their homelessness. What shared patterns among your narratives do you see?

Week 3
Day 4: Mon, Feb. 3  SNOW DAY!

Biddy Martin and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Feminist Politics: What’s Home Got to Do with It?”  Feminist Studies/
Ed. Teresa de Lauretis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. 191-212.

Timothy Morton, "Introduction: Critical Thinking."
The Ecological Thought. Cambridge: Harvard, 2010. pp. 1-19.

By midnight on Tues, Feb. 4: post a paragraph of your initial reactions to Morton’s idea that "too much 'at-homeness'
is not good for ecological thinking. Reflect from the p.o.v. of an environmentalist on your own investments in and search
for home
, and we’ll start class  on Wednesday with these thoughts….PLEASE USE THE ECO-LITERACY TAG 
"English" on these postings.

Day 5: Wed, Feb. 5 Larval Subjects (Levi R. Bryant). Stacy Alaimo: Porous Bodies and Trans-Corporeality. May 24, 2012.


By 5 p.m. on Sun, Feb. 9:
post on-line a paragraph on your evolving reflections about "placelessness" and "porousness."
Let's try to make these postings themselves "porous"--that is, open to others, rather than "bounded" or "stand-alone."
In other words, let's aim to make our forms of writing reflect our theories about how the world works.

Week 4

Day 6: Mon, Feb. 10 Ursula LeGuin, Vaster than Empires, and More Slow. The Wind's Twelve Quarters:
Short Stories. 
New York: Harper and Row, 1975. 148-178.

Day 7: Wed, Feb. 12 Paula Gunn Allen, Kochinnenako in Academe: Three Approaches to Interpreting a Keres Indian Tale.
The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions
. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. 222-244.

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Fri, Feb. 14: Field Trip to  the Shonibare exhibit @ the Barnes Foundation (see also Shonibare's webpage)

By 5 p.m. on Sun, Feb. 16,
post a paragraph--or a few--about your experience of Shonibare's work (tag it “English,”
and post it as a comment in response to others', if your observations connect with theirs in some way).

Week 5

Day 8: Mon, Feb. 17 
discussion of Shonibare's work, with Ava Blitz: critique of our documentations and reactions

Day 9: Wed, Feb. 19  Ava's introduction to other eco-artists, to an eco-artist assignment,
and to the first creative project (both due March 24)

By 5 p.m. on Sun, Feb. 23 [unilateral extension til midnight Wed, Feb. 26]:
post on-line your second 5-pp. reflection about "inside/out":
what is home? exile? place? porosity? figure? ground? for you now?
What text can you draw on or analyze to bring these ideas into focus?

Part II: Single/multiple; or, how much latitude can we allow?

The Village of Arts and Humanities, North Philadelphia (photo by Anne Dalke)

"I think that for fiction writers, there is this latitude that is special - you don't have to follow any narrow line of thought. You don't have to prove something that is already often obvious. The presentation in fiction is very free, and you can play with or examine different ideas that you might not be able to if you have to focus or narrow your investigation" (Karen Tei Yamashita, The Latitude of a Fiction Writer: A Dialogue).

Week 6
Day 10: Mon, Feb. 24 Catherine Meeks. Interview with an Independent Writer: Ruth Ozeki. ASLE News: A Quarterly Publication of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Spring 2013 [scroll down the page, or search for "Ozeki," to find the interview]

Ruth Ozeki. Parts I-III. All Over Creation. Picador, 2003 (pp. 1-168).

Day 11: Wed, Feb. 26 Ruth Ozeki. Part IV. All Over Creation. Picador, 2003 (pp. 169-242).

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Fri. Feb. 28: Second field trip to the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden

By 10 p.m. Sun, Mar. 2, post on-line a one-paragraph response to "Apocalypse, New Jersey."

Dorceta Taylor will be on campus this week, leading a series of conversations
about Diversity, Justice, and the Environment--seek out those that speak to you!

Week 7
Day 12: Mon, Mar. 3 profile of Waterfront South
Matt Taibbi. Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch from America's Most Desperate Town. Rolling Stone. December 22, 2013.
Ariel Rosenberg. Letter to Rolling Stone. December 12, 2013.
Chimamanda Adiche, “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED Talk. July 2009.

4 p.m., Tues, Mar. 4: Jonathan Miller, director of Homelands Productions
(including Food for 9 Billion), giving the Rothenberg Lecture in Carpenter 21

Day 13: Wed, Mar. 5 Dorceta Taylor. The Evolution of Environmental Justice Activism, Research, and Scholarship. Environmental Practice 13, 4 (December 2011): 280-301.

Dorceta Taylor will join us during class, to continue the conversation
begun earlier today in EDU 285: Ecologies of Minds and Communities.

4:30-6 Wed, Mar. 5 Dorceta Taylor, Keynote Address in Dalton 300 on
"Race, Class, Gender and the Environment: The Role of Scholarship and Activism"


5 p.m., Sun, Mar. 16: Read through the plans for our story slam, reflect on them, and post
* any further thoughts about the general plan (goals, shape of the whole)
* suggested date and time of day, and
* volunteer for the work you want to do
(including any additional committees you want to propose).

Week 8 

Day 14: Mon, Mar. 17 discussing Dorceta Taylor's visit,
and Ruth Ozeki. Part V. All Over Creation (pp. 243-309)

Day 15: Wed, Mar. 19
  finish Ruth Ozeki. Part VI. All Over Creation. Picador, 2003 (pp. 311-417)
and discuss our last set of papers on "porosity," in these small groups:
Simona, Lisa// Kelsey, aphorisnt, smilewithsh// Jo, Agatha, Sophia// Sara, Jessica, Jenna.

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Fri, Mar. 21: Stroll around Harriton House; lunch in the wildflower classroom.

By 5 p.m. on Sun, Mar. 23, post on-line a one-paragraph  description of your Friday experiences
in the environment: what happened @ Harriton House (if you were able to join that stroll),
and what happened elsewhere if you were not? (Any particular economical,
educational, literary and/or artistic dimensions of the experience you'd like to highlight?)

Week 9
Day 16: Mon, Mar. 24
-- IN DALTON 212A. Presentation and discussion of creative projects.
We will create a "gallery" of your finished work, walk around and  enjoy seeing
what each of you has made, then talk together about what our reactions are,
both to what we have made ourselves, and to what we have noticed of what others have made.

Day 17: Wed, Mar. 26 Presentation and discussion of selected eco-artists (back in English House II).
(upload your images BEFORE CLASS @
You will each have five minutes to project some images of the eco-artist you've selected,
to talk about what they are expressing, how they use process, materials, site, and cultural tradition,
how their ideas relate to ecological issues, how their work changed and developed over time,
and how they speak to you on a personal level. Then we’ll take a couple of minutes for possible
questions, before moving on to the work of the next artist.

Fri, Mar. 28: Field Trip to Wissahickon Valley Park.
Please do some reading ahead of time about the park, focusing

especially on the history, the geology, the dams and statues, and the bridges.

Two useful interactive workshops @ HC on Sat, Mar 29:

Evalyn Perry's Interactive Workshop on Feminism Today, noon-2 p.m;
Paula Palmer's Workshop, Seeds of Injustice, Roots of Change
[on destruction of indigenous culture], 3-5 Stokes 106, 3-5 p.m.

By 5 p.m. on Sun, Mar. 30,
post on-line a one-paragraph reflection on
our trip to Wissahickon Valley Park, highlighting any particular economical,
educational, literary and/or artistic dimensions of the experience that
may occur to you....

Week 10
Day 18: Mon, Mar. 31 Elizabeth Callaway, A Space for Justice.

SueEllen Campbell. "Magpie." Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature, ed. Richard Kerridge and Neil Sammells. Zed Books, 1998. pp. 13-26.

SueEllen Campbell. "The Land and Language of Desire: Where Deep Ecology and Post-Structuralism Meet." The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens: The University of Georgia Press,  1996. pp. 124-136.

Day 19: Wed, Apr. 2 J.M. Coetzee, "The Philosophers and the Animals" and "The Poets and the Animals." The Lives of Animals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. 15-69.

By 5 p.m on Sun, Apr. 6, post as a comment your reflections on one of the central questions raised by our reading of Coetzee's novella: what does it tell us about the possibility that vegetarians and meat-eaters (or anyone w/ decidedly opposed views) can actually enter into productive dialogue?  Might some divisions be so deep that common academic training, common culture, or even familial ties can not bridge the gap? (Think of this as a warming-up for your next paper, due next weekend: “how much latitude can we allow”? At what point are we "allowed" to "call the question," and refuse further conversation?)

Week 11
Day 20: Mon, Apr. 7 J.M. Coetzee, "Reflections." The Lives of Animals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. 73-120.

Part III: Re/presenting: A Space for Justice

Brazil's Favelas. Places. A Critical, Geographical Blog.

“...literature is important…as the place where impasses can be kept and opened for examination, questions can be guarded and not forced into a premature validation of the available paradigms. Literature is…a mode of cultural work, the work of giving-to-read those impossible contradictions that cannot yet be spoken" (Barbara Johnson, The Feminist Difference: Literature, Psychoanalysis, Race and Gender, 1998).

Day 21: Wed, Apr. 9 review Campbell's two essays

Tim Burke, Last Collection Speech, Swarthmore, 2002. Easily Distracted: A Jackdaw
Perspective on Culture, Politics, Academia, and Other Shiny Objects

Teju Cole, The White-Savior Industrial Complex. The Atlantic. March 21, 2012.

Break into your small writing groups to brainstorm your upcoming web-papers:
"how much latitude can we allow?"

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Fri, Apr. 11: field trip to Laurel Hill Cemetery

By 5 p.m. on Sun, Apr. 13, post on-line your third 5-pp. reflection, on how much "latitude" you can allow...

Week 12

Day 22: Mon, Apr. 14 History of Laurel Hill.
Rebecca Greenfield. Our First Public Parks: The Forgotten History of Cemeteries. The Atlantic. March 16, 2011.
Thomas Laqueur. Spaces of the Dead. Ideas from the National Humanities Center. 8, 2 (2001).

Susan Chumsky. The Rise of Back-to-the-Basics Funerals: Baby Boomers Are Drawn to Green and Eco-Friendly Funerals. The New York Times. March 12, 2014.

Day 23: Wed, Apr. 16 We'll begin our discussion of Amitah Ghosh's novel, The Hungry Tide...
spend some time w/ the map, comparing those visuals with the verbal representation
of the first two chapters, to p. 13

Week 13
Day 24: Mon, Apr. 21 --class cancelled, in return for two hours working with Ava:
Simona and Lisa, 11-1; Kelsey and Sophia, 1-3 on Friday, 4/18; others to come...

Tues, Apr 22: Earth Day

By 5 p.m. on Tues, Apr. 22, post your initial reflections on and/or questions about
Ghosh's novel. When you do so, please read all postings that are already up 
(the later you post, the more you'll have to read...) and write in response to them
(rather than my having to "create" the conversation artificially).

Day 25: Wed, Apr. 23
Amitah Ghosh, Part One. The Ebb: Bhata. The Hungry Tide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006. pp. 1-145.

7:30-9:30 Thurs, Apr. 24 Our Story Slam in Arncliffe

By 5 p.m. on Sun, Apr. 27 [and/or by 5 p.m. on Tue, Apr. 29],
please post your further thoughts about the novel,
which I'll draw on in structuring our class discussions.

Week 14 

Day 26: Mon, Apr. 28 Amitah Ghosh, Part Two. The Flood: Jowar. The Hungry Tide. pp. 149-329.

6:30-8 p.m, Mon, Apr. 28: Eco-Literacy Dinner in DVRm
Come prepared to tell us what your follow-up to the story slam will be:
what action will you pursue, why (what are you trying to find out/accomplish?)
and the logistics of how it will happen before you (and others) leave campus.

Day 27: Wed, Apr. 30 Amitah Ghosh, Part Two, The Hungry Tide, continued.

10 a.m.-2 p.m., Fri, May 2: third visit to the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden

Noon-2 p.m.Tues May 6:  Celebration of our shared work-and-play, with picnic, @ Ava's installation

Senior work due by 5 p.m. on Sat, May 10;
everyone else--by noon, Fri, May 16:

Final Portfolio due on Serendip,
including your fourth 5-pp. web paper, on "Re/presenting Justice."
Also due by this date, in our shared Google doc, is documentation of
the follow-up action you've pursued after the story slam

May 20-21: Tri-Co Environmental Studies workshop

Anne's Reading Notes

A Space for Justice PPT.pptx12.13 MB