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Ecological Imaginings

Anne Dalke's picture

English 313, Bryn Mawr College
Cross-listed in Environmental Studies and Gender & Sexuality
Anne Dalke, Fall 2012 , MW 1-2:30, English House I
(or preferably out front! check

Our on-line conversation & Protected Reading File
Class Members & Notes Towards Class Discussion
Checklist and Instructions for Completing Final Portfolio

“There's a lot of talk about the tame world versus the wild world. It is not only a wild nature that we need as human beings; it is the untamed open space of our imaginations. Reading is where the wild things are."
Jeanette Winterson,
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2012)

Beginning with an assumption that the environmental crisis is a crisis of the imagination, this course is offered as an invitation to re-think the evolving nature of representation, with a focus on language as a link between natural and cultural ecosystems. Our orientation will be systemic, structural, and adaptive, as we study the emerging biological and social systems within which we all live, with a particular attention to linguistic interaction and diversity, or what is known as "the ecology of language."

We will start in the field of "critical ecolinguistics," by attending to the words we chose and the shape of the sentences we construct. We will then work our way up to the level of essays and stories that express the shaping action of humans in the environment, with a particular attention to the modes most used by women, as representative voices of both "ecoliterature" and "ecofeminism." We will conclude with various forms of "ecocriticism," as we reflect more broadly on the ways others have written, and how we ourselves might write about matters of ecological concern: What does the ever-growing body of "greenwriting" and "greenspeaking" look-and-sound like? Are non-anthropomorphic stories possible? How fully can we imagine--and represent--humanity as part of a larger ecological community? What aesthetics might be most effective, as humans attempt to hear, and voice, the world in which we live, and which we alter by doing so? What genres and traditions of writing might be recuperated, while other symbolic constructions need to be more thoroughly questioned?

We will make our own weekly observations of the world in which we live, work and imagine, and bi-monthly forays into the world beyond the campus, seeking a variety of ways of expressing our ecological interests. We will also read classical and cutting edge ecolinguistic, ecofeminist, ecocritical and ecoesthetic theory, along with a wide range of exploratory, speculative, and imaginative essays and stories.

students must have registered as a minor in Environmental Studies, as a
concentrator in Gender and Sexuality Studies, or as a major in English.

Course Requirements
Please purchase, borrow or make arrangements to share two book-length texts, 
by Williams and Coetzee. The remainder of our reading will be accessible on-line
(see link to protected reading file, above, and syllabus below; we'll explore some
on-line annotation tools to help your on-line reading).

Each week, plan to spend

1) 1 hour alone, outside observing (choose a single site to return to repeatedly over the course of the semester)
2) 1 hour writing/posting an account of your direct observations (due by 5 p.m. each Thursday)
3) 1 hour responding to others’ postings (including class notes and Anne's prompts; due by 5 p.m. each Sunday)
4) 3 hours reading
5) 3 hours of classes (shall we hold these outside?)
Each month, you will have
an extended on-line reflection (3pp, 6pp, then 9 pp....)
1 field trip (the first to Harriton House, the second a shared exploratory session with the EcoESem students on campus, the third a shared class jaunt to Ashbridge Park, the fourth a "blind field shuttle" with Carmen Papalia)
a writing conference with Anne (one before fall break, a second one before final project is due)
At the end of semester is due
12 pp. of new work, in an e-portfolio, with a checklist, that gathers together and reflects on the whole.

Learning Goals:
Shared, dialogic, critical thinking about broad and specific environmental questions, through closely observing and reflecting on the natural world; reading and interpreting written, visual and material texts; finding effective ways both of expressing and acting in response to ecological concerns.

"Accommodations" (cf. syllabus statement from Access Services): we will all of us need a little space, a little "slack," @ some time during the course of the semester;  to "accomodate this," our shared responsibility involves letting one another know when we can't show up, making alternative arrangements (for ex, if you need to miss class, read the course notes, do another posting "saying" what you might have said, had you been here...)

Reading Schedule

I. Invitation into the field
"It doesn't make sense to have English departments anymore....The traditional model in education has been cosmopolitanism. I've come to prefer a concentric and bioregional approach to learning" (John Elder, in "The Greening of the Humanities").

Day 1 (Wed, Sept. 5):
Wendell Barry, The Silence.

By 5 p.m. tonight: Register for a Serendip account and join our class group.

By 5 p.m. Thurs, Sept. 6: follow these instructions for exploring the Bryn Mawr campus. Next, log on to our on-line course conversation, introduce yourself and answer the questions in the survey. Feel free to respond to others' answers or to post yours independently.

5 p.m. Sun, Sept. 9: Web "event" #1 (3 pp.)--Take a Thoreauvian walk around campus: locate its center, explore its boundaries (what marks the edges of this place?). "Saunter," "ruminate," and "seek new prospects," as Thoreau advises.  (What trees can you climb, "borders" can you cross, "present" might you enter? What "useful ignorance" will you "diffusee" thereby?) Then write 3 pp. reflecting on what you experienced, and post the essay in our on-line course conversation (either independently or as a response to one of your classmates's postings).

Day 2 (Mon, Sept. 10)

FIRST FIVE PAGES of Henry David Thoreau's Walking. 1851; rpt Project Gutenberg, 2008--
through paragraph 14 ("It will never become quite familiar to you...")
PLUS the two accounts (campus exploration and Thoreauvian walk) each of us has provided on-line

[in class] Paul Winter, "Sea Song." Earth Music.

Day 3 (Wed, Sept. 12)
Rebecca Solnit, "Open Door" and from "The Blue of Distance." A Field Guide to Getting Lost. New York. Penguin, 2005. 3-25, 161-168 (in our password protected file).

Map-making: how might we represent this campus? What parts of the environment matter = need to be foregrounded? What is background?

By 5 p.m. on Thurs, Sept. 13, select a site on campus that you want to re-visit, once/week,
throughout the semester (there might be a logic to some off-campus sites, too...)  F
the instructions @ How to Add an Image, post a visualization of the BMC/HC campus

(a map, a photograph, a sketch? of what era?), then write a paragraph about what you are choosing
to foreground, and why. What is background in this visualization? Where are its boundaries?
What is terra incognita here? Finally, explain the relation of that image to your chosen site.
For example/my sample: Imagining the Human in the Landscape

II. Ecolinguistics: revising our grammar and our genres
"Environmentalism is, ultimately, a question of design -- of ethical design"
(David Orr, in "The Greening of the Humanities).

5 p.m. Sun, Sept. 16:
Select three keywords you might find of use for the next stage of our shared exploration (possibilities include--but are by no means limited to-- "place," "nature," "environment," 'home," "housekeeping," "economics," "ecology," "deep ecology," "ecosystem," "ecocentric," "egocentric," "biocentric," "anthropocentric," "speciesism,"  "growthism," "interrelationship," "interaction," "interdependence," "diversity," "adaptation," "sustainable," "green," "ruderal," "succession," "resilience," "permaculture"....) Go to @ least three dictionaries, including the OED, to uncover a historical range of definitions, meanings, histories, etymologies, and future use values for these words. Share the history of your keywords on-line, and compare what you found with what @ least one of your classmates has discovered.

Day 4 (Mon, Sept. 17)

Raymond Williams, "Chapter 13: Key Words/Key Concepts." Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Revised Edition. New York: Oxford UP, 1985.  375-383 (in our password protected file).

Day 5 (Wed, Sept. 19)
David Bohm, "The rheomode --an experiment with language and thought." Wholeness and the Implicate Order. New York: Routledge, 1996. 27-47 [this link leads directly to the Bryn Mawr network; to access the text from Haverford, enter the title into Tripod, and follow the instructions to "Connect...from Haverford"].

By 5 p.m. Thurs, Sept. 20: begin recording your weekly observations of your adopted on-campus "site"; do this once a week (by 5 p.m. Thursday) for the next 10 weeks, ending on Dec. 6th.  For inspiration, you might want to visit Writing Nature. Digital Storytelling course. Swarthmore College. Fall 2010, and/or Joan Maloof's "Teaching the Trees: How to Be a Female Nature Writer" (from Women Writing Nature, 2007, in our password protected file). Play with photographs and "rheomodic" commentary; I invite you also to
experiment w/ different forms of representation, w/ different "languages," and w/ different
forms of English, the various sorts of "green grammars" we are beginning to read about....
*By Sunday @ 5, a more focused assignment: re-visit your visualization (and/or one of your classmates'?)
and analyze it in terms of some of the keywords we put on the table Monday: was your image
"anthropocentric"? did it feature a "garden," or "permaculture"? What do you see now, w/ the
help of your own or your classmates' terms, that you didn't when you/we first put it up?
Warning! this activity of re-flecting and "re-levating" (lifting again to attention--Bohm) will go
on all semester....

Day 6 (Mon, Sept. 24)
Andrew Goatly, “Green Grammar and Grammatical Metaphor, or Language and Myth of Power, or Metaphors We Die By." Alwin Fill and Peter Muhlhausler, eds. The Ecolinguistics Reader: Language, Ecology, and Environment. Continuum, 2001. 203-225 [this link leads directly to the Bryn Mawr network; to access these essays from Haverford, enter the title into Tripod, and follow the instructions to "Connect...from Haverford"].

Mary Schleppegrell, “What Makes a Grammar Green?” A Reply to Goatly. The Ecolinguistics Reader. 226-228.

Andrew Goatly. A Response to Schleppegrell. The Ecolinguistics Reader. 229-231.

Day 7 (Wed, Sept. 26):
Gary Snyder, "Unnatural Writing" and "Language Goes Two Ways." A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds. New and Selected Prose. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1995. 163-180 (in our password protected file).

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 (in our password protected file).

By 5 p.m. Thursday, record your weekly observations of your adopted on-campus "site."

5 p.m. Sun, Sept. 30: by Sunday @ 5, re-shape a whole paragraph of some piece of writing you've done--
this could be your first webpaper (your Thoreauvian ramble), the first or second installment of your nature writing, or even one of your web postings about visualizing the campus or etymologizing keywords. Do this by pasting in your original, then consciously selecting and NAMING a new form that differs from the one you (probably used unconsciously on) your original--this could be the "rhemode' (verb-centric), "green grammar" (however defined-->Goatly's "nominalization"? Schleppegrell's focus on revealing real forces/identifying institutions that result in env'l destruction?), Snyder's "unnatural writing," Allen's "open/unified field perception," Maloof's advice on "female" nature writing ("Tell a story and put yourself in it"), or
some other mode we haven't yet seen/identified. Comment on (compare similiarities? differences? congruences? expansions? in) the use of such forms by least one of your classmates.

Day 8 (Mon, Oct. 1):
Joseph Meeker, "The Comic Mode." The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology. New York: Scribner's, 1972. 19-39 (in our password protected file).

Mentz, Steve. "Tongues in the Storm: Shakespeare, Ecological Crisis, and the Resources of Genre." Ecocritical Shakespeare, ed. Lynne Bruckner and Dan Brayton (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2011), 155-72 [this link leads directly to the Bryn Mawr network; to access the text from Haverford, enter the title into Tripod, and follow the instructions to "Connect...from Haverford"].

Day 9 (Wed, Oct. 3):
Ursula K. LeGuin, "Science Fiction and the Future" and "The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction." Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places. Grove/Atlantic, 1986. 142-143, 165-170 (in our password protected file).

-----. "Vaster than Empires, and More Slow." The Wind's Twelve Quarters: Short Stories.  New York: Harper and Row, 1975. 148-178 (in our password protected file).

By 5 p.m. Thursday, record your weekly observations of your adopted on-campus "site."

5 p.m. Sun, Oct 7: Analyze the literary form of your first webpaper (or, if you would rather, of your Thursday evening nature writing): What genre did you employ? What alternative genre might you employ? How would that change the story you tell? Re-write one paragraph in that new mode, and again, find an exploration by a classmate to comment on.

Day 10 (Mon, Oct. 8):
Thomas Berry. Introduction, "Returning to Our Native Place," "The American College in the Ecological Age," "The New Story" and "The Dream of the Earth: Our Way into the Future." The Dream of the Earth. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988. xi-xv, 1-5, 89-108, 123-137, 194-215 (in our password protected file).

Day 11 (Wed, Oct. 10):
Michael Pollan, "Weeds are Us." The New York Times Magazine. November 5, 1989.

Richard White. "Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?" Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. Ed. William Cronin. New York: Norton, 1995. 171-185 (in our password protected file).

A trip to 1912, via a visit to Harriton House, with a guided tour by the Executive Director, Bruce Cooper Gill.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, record your weekly observations of your adopted on-campus "site."

FALL BREAK (Oct. 12-21)

5 p.m. Sun, Oct. 21: take some time to review all your postings and papers, reflecting on what's working and what needs working on, both for you as an individual learner and for the class as a learning community. How are you using the class? How do you see others using it, individually and as a group? How is this course functioning "ecologically," how might it be more "ecological" in structure and action? Are there additional ways you can imagine y/our using the class, to expand our understanding? Post a paragraph or two of these reflections on-line for us to discuss together.

III. Ecofeminism: Women re-writing the world
"...most studies of the American response to nature have focused on the problematic, ambivalent experiences of men" (Vera Norwood, "Heroines of Nature: Four Women Respond to the American Landscape," The Ecocriticsm Reader: Landmarks of Literary Ecology).

Day 12 (Mon, Oct. 22)
In-class discussion of our mid-semester assessments, and of our trip to Harriton House

Rachel Carson, Chapters 1 and 2: "A Fable for Tomorrow" and "The Obligation to Endure." Silent Spring. 1962; rpt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. 1-13 (in our password protected file).
Review of new biography of Carson

Day 13 (Wed, Oct. 24)
Charlene Spretnak, "Ecofeminism: Our Roots and Flowering." International Conference on Ecofeminist Perspectives: Culture, Nature, Theory," U.S.C. March, 27-29, 1987 (in our password protected file).

By 5 p.m. Thursday, record your weekly observations of your adopted on-campus "site."

5 p.m. Sun, Oct 30: Choose one "thread" to pursue w/ your classmates: How might we revise the remainder of the semester to reflect our shared interests? How do you understand/what questions do you have about the intersection of gender and the environment? (Or: what questions did Spretnak's article on ecofeminism answer or raise for you?) And/or what further conversation would you like to have about our other recent, under-discussed readings (Pollan on weeds, White on working for a living, Carson on pesiticide use)? 

Day 14 (Mon, Oct. 29)

Hurricane Sandy

Day 15 (Wed, Oct. 31)
Discussion of the hurricane:
how do we understand what happened? How might we understand this better? (How was it represented? How do we represent it? What stories do we tell?)

Jamaica Kincaid, "Alien Soil." The New Yorker (June 21, 1993).

Evelyn White, "Black Women and the Wilderness." Names We Call Home: Autobiography on Racial Identity. Ed. Becky Thompson and Sangeeta Tyagi. New York: Routledge, 1996. 282-288 (in our password protected file).

Carl Anthony and Renée Soule, "The Multicultural Approach to Ecopsychology." The Ecopsychology Institute, 1997 (in our password protected file).

Winona LaDuke. "Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Environmental Futures" (1994), "Who Owns America? Minority Land and Community Security" (2001), "Honor the Earth: Our Native American Legacy" (1999), and "A Seventh Generation Amendment" (1996). The Winona LaDuke Reader: A Collection of Essential Writings. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 2002. 78-88, 138-147,172-180, 273-277 (in our password protected file).

By 5 p.m. Thursday, record your weekly observations of your adopted on-campus "site."

5 p.m. Fri, Nov 2: Web event #2 (6 pp.)-- Revise and expand your first web event, using some new keywords and alternative grammatical forms to re-locate your experiences in either (or both!) a larger time and space. What was this place like before we got here? What happens to the story you told, once you attend to the plants that accompany us here? How does an expanded sense of time, space and/or companions alter your understanding, and your articulation, of your earlier experiences?

Day 16 (Mon, Nov. 5)
Marilyn Waring. "Preface by Gloria Steinem," "Introduction to the Second Edition," "If Counting was the Limit of Intelligence," "Epilogue." Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth. Second Edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004. xi-li, 224-241, 256-264 (in our password protected file).

If you'd prefer to access Waring's work in video form, watch Who's Counting?

Day 17  (Wed, Nov. 7)
Carolyn Merchant. Introduction, Chapter 4: Deep Ecology, and Conclusion. Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World. Second Edition. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2005. 1-13, 91-115, 249-254 (in our password protected file).

By 5 p.m. Thursday, record your weekly observations of your adopted on-campus "site."

Day 18 (Mon, Nov. 12)
A (re-re-scheduled!) exploration of our botanical companions on campus, led by our biology majors.

Read this short article on the history and ecology of the Morris Woods.

Please look up some information about the following species on the internet to prepare for the Plant Meet and Greet Activity. Some specific aspects to look for include: origin, where they currently grow, image (what does it look like), and any medicinal/therapeutic/edible properties - (namely for Spice Bush and Yew). Also try to come up with a few answers on your own and fresh in your mind to the following question (Using Michael Pollan reading and internet sources) - What is a weed?
Spice Bush

Day 19 (Wed, Nov. 14)
Shared decision-making re: what to do Thanksgiving week, our field trip, and final projects
Carmen Papalia, Caning in the City
Terry Tempest Williams, "Water Songs" and "Winter Solstice," An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. New York: Vintage, 1994 (pp. 39-48, 61-65).

By 5 p.m. Thursday, please post your site-sit and include some connection between what you saw/experienced in Morris Woods on Monday and your site. Read and comment on at least one of your classmate’s postings.

By Sunday @ 5, please post your thoughts about our final field trip.

ay 20 (Mon, Nov. 19)
[all of] Terry Tempest Williams, An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. New York: Vintage, 1994.

IV. Ecocritique: Further imaginings
"....the time is past due for a redefinition of what is significant on earth....the revaluation of nature will be accompanied by a major reordering of the literary genres" (Glen Love, "Revaluing Nature: Toward an Ecological Criticism." The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology).

Day 21 (Wed, Nov. 21

Aldo Leopold, "The Land Ethic." A Sand County Almanac. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966. 217-241. Available digitally @ North Glen.

No site sit due this week....

Thankgiving Break (Th, Nov. 22-Sun, Nov. 25)

8 p.m. Sun, Nov. 25: Web event #3 --9 pp. exploring your current understanding of "ecocultural complexity," or how ecological concerns seem to you to be inflected racially, culturally, or economically.

Day 22 (Mon, Nov. 26)
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.

Day 23 (Wed, Nov. 28)
"Reflections." The Lives of Animals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. 73-120.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, plan a get together, outside of scheduled class time, w/ several members of the Balch Seminar on "Ecological Imaginings." They will be prepared to lead you on a geological tour of the campus; and you should be prepared to share with them what you (will by then!) have learned in our botanical exploration. Plan to spend about 2 hours together: 1/2 an hour sharing w/ one another what's been most useful/interesting to you in our journey so far, then 45 minutes w/ them leading you on a geological exploration, 45 minutes w/ you leading them on a botanical one. Describe this experience on-line (in lieu of your "site sit" this week).

Day 24 (Mon, Dec. 3)
Our collective final "ramble," to the Mill Creek Restoration Site in Ashbridge Park

Day 25 (Wed, Dec. 5
rescheduled "blind field shuttle" with Carmen Papalia

By 5 p.m. Thursday, record your final set of weekly observations of your adopted on-campus "site."

By 5 p.m. Sunday, post on-line your reflections on our two excursions this week.

Day 26 (Mon, Dec. 10)

Timothy Morton, "Introduction: Toward a Theory of Ecological Criticism." Ecology Without Nature: Re-thinking Environmental Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007. 1-28 (in our password protected file).

Day 27 (Wed, Dec. 12)
A Teach-In: sharing with one another what we have been learning...

12:30, Fri, Dec. 21: after meeting with Anne, design, execute and post on Serendip a final (12-pp. equivalent) web-event, which represents your current "ecological imaginings." Then complete your checklist and final portfolio.

Anne's Reading Notes