Environmental Literature

You are enrolling in a participatory seminar that calls attention to those distinctively literary forms of dramatic, poetic and prosaic expression that–as finer examples of an artistic sense–also take a critical approach to people, nature and wildlife in their landscape, terrains, or native, ecological settings. This environmental literature course introduces you to a wide array of writers who have inspired greater attention to, decriptions of, and respect for surface and underlying facets of the living world. 

A persisting focus on Florida and a concluding focus on the Lake Apopka area offer you, as an involved participant, an opportunity for local observations, writing, nature appreciation and even action. Students will make frequent recitations and verbal presentations about the bio-physical environment to allow for learning about particular themes from writers not fully covered in the class readings.

Authors you may use for research topics: Mark Twain (Samuel L Clemmons), Henry David Thoreau, W. E. B. Dubois, Elizabeth Bishop, Earnest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Walt Whitman, Zora Neale Hurston, Terry T. Williams, Leo Marx, Washington Irving, Willa Cather, N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdich, Barry Lopez, Rachel Carson, Gary Snyder, or Lewis Thomas.

Texts | Calendar | Assignments | Focus | Field trips | Final

"Eel fishing at Setaucket," on Long Island, William Sidney Mount, 1845

Texts to focus our reading, discussions, and recitations:

books•   “Inventing a New Field: The study of literature about the environment” Karen Winkler

  Terry Tempest Williams, The Open Space of Democracy (an address)

  Joyce Carol Oates “Against Nature” (an essay)

  Tom Stoppard, Arcadia, [1995] (A play)

Washington Irving, The Kinckerbocker Tales: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

• Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass [1855] (poem)

  Mary Austin, Land of Little Rain. New York, Penguin, 1903.

  Samuel Langhorn Clemens, “Letters from Earth” [1910] pp. 1-19.

  William. E. B. Du Bois, The Black Belt, from Souls of Black Folk 1880s.

  Lake Apopka Community wiki – http://wiki.rollins.edu/lakeapopka/index.php/Category:Human

Raymond F. Dasmann, The Destruction of California: “Where the Antelope glimmered through the Dancing Heat” & “The Prairies that Vanished” [1965] (non-fiction)

  Ernest Hemingway, The Big Two-Hearted River [1921] (short-story)

  William Faulkner, The Bear [Go Down Moses, 1942] (short-story)

  Barbara Kingsolver, selected poetry from Another America and narratives from Homeland and Other Stories: http://www.kingsolver.com/

  Barry Lopez, “In the Garden of the Lords of War," a selection from Light Action In The Caribbean [2000] & Barry H. Lopez, River Notes [New York: Avon, 1979] (essays)


bookThe literature of the environment and eco-crticism is an exciting and difficult emergent field that seeks to bridge the unbridgeable gap between biology and English to better inform us about the ecological conditions sustaining the world and its peoples. We focus here on Anglo-American themes, although nature writing is both international and universal. The writing is about nature, nature as a projection or social construct, and the biological reality of your lives that can and often does give rise to transcendent, emotive, and cognitively revolutionary insights about who we are in the world of other creatures.

Expectations of the course: More practically, participants will have opportunities to hone their skills in reading analytically, in verbally conveying their views about ecological findings and ethnic identity in a supportive setting. Further, you will be coaxed to better express your ideas in writing as you learn throughout the term. Especially in our class, I would hope you would experience the delight and enjoyments of being often moved by the profound power of ideas and articulate prose to lift your spirits, amend your behavior, nourish your more curious sensibilities, and even move you to act prudently as a means to improve both yourself and our world.  

Come to class on time having read the assigned materials for that day as listed on pages two and three. Be prepared to read selections from the texts.

Grades: all assignments are graded with careful attention to each of these criteria: CLIFS

   1. C      clarity, coherence, spelling, grammar & logical consistency

   2. L      length & development of your arguments, ideas, or presentations

   3. I       information from the class texts, library research, or interviews

   4. F      frequency of examples from the lectures, journal, notes & readings

   5. S      subjects developed as argued in a thesis; introduction, summaries, & conclusion.


Create a collaborative study group. Write the names and phone numbers of two other students in the class:

          1. _____________________________    2. _____________________________

My policies:

I am here to excite and encourage you to excel in learning new concepts and practicing your writing and speaking abilities in an effort to create meaningful discourse. My purpose is to feed your inquiring intellect with significant concepts in a coherent and challenging way. I anticipate you will ask questions and actively work together with me to overcome the challenges the course material may pose for you in achieving an excellent level of performance based on an improved understanding of the readings.

Active learning

Your participation in this course involves not only alertness and verbally contributing your ideas, but also listening respectfully without interrupting others who are presenting their views on the assigned readings. Paying attention to others and to me is a sign of respect that I will reward. The use of electronic media, texting, or web browsing for other than class purposes is treated as an absence since texting, internet surfing, e-mailing, or being digitally inattentive to our discussion during class meetings robs us of your intellect’s contributions to our discourse. Recitation of poetry and prose selections is a vital activity in this class.

Academic honesty and writing with integrity

Cheating, borrowing ideas, or copying without proper citation diminishes the integrity of any writing. The habitual resort to these less than responsible practices amounts to plagiarism–a most serious academic offense of novices and experts alike. By the use of words or ideas that are not your own and are either insufficiently accredited or not acknowledged at all you undermine the essay’s reliability. The consequences are that you can fail the assignment, or even fail the class, since these offenses are a violation of the College’s honor code. As such, I am obligated to report such violations to the Dean.


A. Each essay is worth 20% of your grade. Writing frequently and speaking informatively are at the heart of this course because these are skills any effective person in management, personnel, or sales must be able to do well; to communicate clearly, & keep working. Essay lengths listed below are minimum expectations you may write more, as I keep a record of all the written work you do.

B. Start all assignments early at least two weeks befoe they are due. Keep notes to show me in a conference, print drafts often.

C. Any assignment taken to the writing center in TJs will receive extra credit or a higher grade.

Formal papers.

All essays should have a title based on the paper's contents with the authors full name, phone number, dates started and completed, with page numbers clearly visible. The essay style shoud follow the form and content of papers in the Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal. All papers are to be typed, double spaced, 12 point font, in either Times New Roman or Arial font,at least six to eight pages (22 lines/ page) long excluding a literature cited and bibliography page.

Endnotes or footnotes are preferred rather than parenthesis with author, date, and pages. The final reviewessay must be handed in no later than 5 December 2012.You are encouraged to hand this in earlier or to discuss your ideas with me, in a draft essay for me to review my & make comments prior to the due date. I anticipate that the best parts of your papers will be presented in class. 80% of your grade comes equally from the four papers; the last or final (review essay) paper is a rewritten compilation of the 1st three corrected essays.

Late papers

Submit all assigned work at the beginning of the class on the day the assigned work is due. Late papers cannot earn the same credit as those received on time in fairness to the punctual students. This is really because we discuss what you have written in the class the day the essays are due. Always back-up your work as you write, start at least a week before, and keep a printed copy of the essay you give me.

Paper format

The look of any college paper is always a professional document with page numbers & an accurate date indicating when the work was completed. I ask you to place a cover page with your name, phone number, essay title, and an abstract of five to four sentences covering the substance of your essay. Its purpose is for privacy because I make extensive comments on your work. Spelling and grammar errors are unacceptable. All work that you submit–including blogs, e-mails, and texts–must be your own words, or have an accurate acknowledgment stating clearly whose words, ideas, or beliefs are being used.

Calendar for events in environmental literature


M, 21                   What is literature? – Elizabeth Bishop[i] –the poetry of places.

W, 12                  Terry Tempest Williams, The Open Space of Democracy, pp. 1-107.

F,  14                  Recitation[ii] as a way of knowing words & their meaning–Orson Welles

M, 17 is a day off for Holiday

W, 19                  W. E. B. DuBois, Souls of Black Folk[iii] * Zora N. Hurston “Their Eyes”

F,   21                 WHO WORKS THE LAND & How?

M,  24     Writing about fictions of time and space – Robert Frost, Two Roads

W,  26                 Arcadia, Tom Stoppard (a play)

F,   28                 Can we get past our comforting illusions? (i.e. “Man’s place in nature.”)

M,  31                 Writing to discover sources, Raymond F. Dasmann, pp, 42-58,


W,  2                   Leo Marx, “Shakespeare’s American Fable” Clemens Letters from Earth, pp. 1-19.

F,   4                   The beginning and the end of our loss of innocence as a morality play?

M,  7                   Expressing doubt in writing

W,  9                   Joyce Carol Oates “Against Nature,” INSIDE OUT – the art of essays

F,   11                 So is nature the biggest fiction of all? Raymond F. Dasmann, pp,59-74

M,  14                 Capturing a sense of loss in writing.  

See http://web65.rollins.edu/~jsiry/Visual Learning.html - question

W,  16                 Earnest Hemingway, Big Two Hearted River

F,   18                 Writing about where we have been (TJs?)

M,  21                 Discovering motive and motivating discovery when writing

W,  23                 Thoreau: Science and conscience  Books, Essays, excerpts Walden, Sucession.

F,   25                 Is caring a drag?

M,  28                 Select a subject: present the literature on that theme & what it means


W,  2                   Presentations-- present the literature on a theme

F,   4                   Presentations-- present the literature on a theme

Fall Break Saturday, Oct 5, through Sunday, Oct 8       (No Classes)

M,  14                 Finding beauty in a Broken World

W,  16                 The Apopka area wiki – HOW TO BE A WRITER: Mary Austin, Land of. . .

F,   18                 field trip– http://wiki.rollins.edu/lakeapopka/index.php/Main_Page

M,  21                 The Quest for an honorable peace with the land

W,  23                 Sandra Steingraber – http://web.rollins.edu/~jsiry/LivingDownstream2.html

F,   25                 What have we done or what are we doing, does it matter?

M,  28                 Coming of Age in the rural South

W,  30                 William Faulkner, The Bear


F,   1                   field trip / also virtually visit the New York Public Library!

M,  4                   The New American voice http://web.rollins.edu/~jsiry/whitman.html

W,  6                   Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself –“creeds in abeyance

F,   8                   field trip also virtually visit: New York Public Library!

M,  11                 Discovering sources of great literary expression: Ogden Nash poems

W,  13                 Irving, Cooper, Bryant & Melville – sources of solidarity with the devil

F,   15                 day off in lieu of field trips -- Essay due on Monday on one or more authors.

M,  18                 The contemporary challenge: describing what we’ve tainted, Essay due!

W,  20                 Barbara Kingsolver, Joan Didion & T.T. Williams finding beauty broken . . .

F,   22                 Lake Apopka as a disturbance in the fiction of the farms


M,  5 is the last day – Barry Lopez “In the Garden of the Lord of War”

Meet in the Chapel Garden – weather permitting!

DECEMBER 8   Final Exam: TBA ; explain verbally your last essay to the class.

Final: Several author’s on a common theme and its counter-theme (presentation is based on this) --20%


An important goal of this course is to test your ability to describe nature, people, the environment and what we may ponderously call “the ecology of man" in the field setting. How you do this is up to me & you in a negotiated agreement stemming from a conversation about which subjects & authors you may want to research and write more about. Attending class regularly and meeting with me is worth 20% of your grade.

You meet with me after the third week of school. We decide on themes and authors. You do three assignments, one or two of which may focus on Lake Apopka and our partnership with that community. But your first essay is about one of our readings initial five readings. Each essay is 1/5th of your grade.

1.            One author and the meaning of their literary work (due 2-14) 20% http://www.rollins.edu/library/

2.            Final: Several author’s on a common theme & its counter-theme (presentation is based on this) 12-4 --20%

3.            Transfer the previous ideas learned and apply them to the case of Lake Apopka, its people and landscape. (10-18) You post a revision of this on the wiki site with source references. 20%

Authors you may use: Mark Twain (Samuel L Clemmons), Henry David Thoreau, W. E. B. Dubois, Elizabeth Bishop, Earnest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Walt Whitman, Zora Neale Hurston, Terry T. Williams, Leo Marx, Washington Irving, Willa Cather, N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdich, Barry Lopez, Rachel Carson, Gary Snyder, or Lewis Thomas. See visual materials in the New York Public Library!

What is the character of the environment in their works and how do people relate to these settings?

The themes should come from our readings of Elizabeth Bishop, Joyce Carol Oates, Tom Stoppard, Terry T. Williams, Henry Thoreau, Ralph Emerson, Leo Marx, Walt Whitman, or Earnest Hemingway.

You rewrite the final essay & resubmit the revision at the final exam giving a verbal summary of how you tied what you wrote and how you revised the essay to reflect clearly what you learned.

[i] Bishop, Elizabeth (1911–79), U.S. poet. Her poetry contrasts her experiences in South America 1952–67 with her New England origins. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her first two collections, North and South (1946) and A Cold Spring (1955). Other notable works include Geography III (1976). We will read the poemFlorida” aloud and in unison. Much like a drinking song!

[ii] This is not a great, or polished example of what I mean but use it as a guide on what to do in the class when I ask you to recite passages: The student who did this says: this is an excerpt from The Souls of Black Folk. pgs 38-41 from the "Digireads.com" version. just for reference, it was published in 1903. that's why he uses words like "whither" (which, btw means "where"...i had to look it up) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boEMS3Y7tmo

[iii] DuBois, William Edward Burghardt. Darkwater; voices from within the veil. 1920

http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DubDark.html, and My Evolving Program for Negro Freedom: http://www.webdubois.org/dbMyEvolvingPrgm.html

[iv] William Sidney Mount: Eel Spearing at Setauket (also known as Recolections of Early Days - "Fishing Along Shore") 1845, Oil on Canvas.