Environmental Literature


Thomas Moran's painting of a view from the Hermit Road rim of the Grand Canyon.


Syllabus for ENV–270.01:  Environmental Literature

Fall Semester, 2015
Location: Bush Science Center, Room 164
Class Meeting time is Monday–Wednesday-Friday, 12:00 PM – 12:50 PM

Instructor:              Joseph V. Siry, Ph.D.             Office: Beale 105 , e-mail e-mail, 407.646.2648
Office Hours:        Tues., 9:30 AM-10:30 AM, Wed 2:00 PM-4:00 PM, Thurs., 9:30 -11:30 AM + by appointment.

Grading:                Letter grade based on close reading, writing, discussion, & assignments. 4 credit hours, CRN 90281.

I. Rationale:

This environmental literature course introduces you to a wide array of writers who have inspired greater attention to and respect for the biophysical world.  A recurring focus on Florida and an enduring focus on lakes & Lake Apopka area offer you, as an involved participant, an opportunity for local observations and action. Student recitations and verbal presentations allow for learning about particular facets of writers not fully covered in the class readings.

The literature of the environment and eco-criticism 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 on Anglo-American themes.

Write the names and phone numbers of two other students in the class:

                1. _____________________________              2. _____________________________
The literature and current criticisms of how authors have described their narrative's surroundings is a point of departure for environmental literature. Environmental literature is the study over time how great writers have portrayed the natural world. Complementary to other disciplines, literature is a gateway to understanding the human condition because authors have emphasized the many dynamic ways geography and culture influence society and interpersonal affairs. We will study how authors have explained how humans both shape their surroundings and are psychologically shaped by ecological conditions.


II. Course Aims and Outcomes: 

You are enrolling in a seminar that calls attention to those distinctively literary forms of artistic expression that take an ecological approach to people, nature and wildlife in their landscape or native settings. I want you to read critically from the perspectives of ecology and literary expression concerning the natural world. By demonstrating examples of how authors have portrayed natural settings I would encourage your to interpret your surroundings in an environmentally literate manner.

Expectations of the course: More practically, participants will have many opportunities to hone their skills in reading analytically, in verbally conveying their views about ecological ideas and ethnic identity in a supportive setting. 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 web page links and all assigned materials for that day as listed on pages four and five. Practice to be better prepared to read selections from the assigned texts to the class.

Specific Learning Outcomes:
Student Learning Outcomes for American Environmental Literature are in the cognitive, expressive, affective, and interpretive domains
By the end of this course, students will demonstrate proficiency in five or more of these areas.

The study of American and English writer's views of our natural environment is a retrospective story about people who continually misunderstood the prospect of democratic values in a vastly varied land. To comprehend the enduring character of how generations of Americans expressed their intellectual needs with regard to nature, our class examines the cultural and natural meaning as embodied in the ecology of freedom.

We read critically in order to actively discuss and examine decisive ideas about national character as portrayed by authors: Twain, Thoreau, Faulkner, Hemingway, Bryant, Bishop, Frost, Stoppard, Oates, & Williams. We do so in order to use written discourse to critically interpret and carefully judge competing beliefs about biophysical situations that altered attitudes towards nature from being more than the mere setting of a human narrative to becoming an active participant in the formulation of literary narratives.

III. Grades

    All assignments are graded with careful attention to each of these criteria:  {CLIFS}
   1. C      clarity, means coherence, spelling, grammar, correct syntax, & logical consistency.
   2. L      length & development of your arguments, collateral concepts, ideas, or recitations.
   3. I       information from the class readings, assigned texts, library research, or interviews.
   4. F      frequency of examples and author references from the lectures, journal, notes & readings,
   5. S      subjects developed as argued in a thesis; introduction, summaries, & concise conclusions.

Students in passing the course are expected to demonstrate six of the learning outcomes in their submissions.

view Rio Grande River in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

What must you do:                                                                                                                                          Value

IV.  My Assumptions, Policies, Paper Format, and Procedures: 

I am here to entice, excite, & encourage your imagination and capacities to excel in learning new concepts. In allowing participants to practice writing and speaking abilities, I desire to generate meaningful discourse. My purpose is to support your inquiring intellect with significant concepts in a coherent and challenging manner. I anticipate you will ask questions so we all actively learn together to overcome the problems these authors pose for you in achieving superb performance levels based on critical reading.

Having begun university teaching in 1972, I still aspire to communicate how personal assumptions and/or biases regarding the content of a story alters its meaning so that participating students may learn how biases cloud our judgment of the facts. Your written comprehension of these ideas is crucial to my success.


Active learning.
My hopes are that serious participants exceed the customary habits of arriving promptly to class having taken notes from assigned texts for that meeting day. By discussing concepts arising from these readings, do keep in mind that participation involves not only alertness and verbally contributing your ideas, but also listening respectfully without interrupting other speakers who proffer their views on the assigned texts. Paying attention to others and to me is a sign of respect that I will reward. Since using electronic media, texting, or web browsing for other than class purposes is rude; unauthorized texting, internet surfing, e-mailing, or being digitally inattentive to discussions during class meetings counts as an absence, because it robs us of your responses to the texts. I do not tolerate side conversations during class time when other people are speaking. You may regularly contribute verbally your analyses to enrich our class discussions. I reserve the right to guide us back to the author's meaning from the readings assigned for that session. To do well, I expect you may consistently share passages, questions, or findings from the authors when so motivated on the Wiki site.

Punctuality and late papers.

Do submit all course work 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 on the day these essays are due. Try to plan ahead, always start at least 2 weeks before papers are due, back-up your work as you write, and keep a printed copy of all notes & drafts.

Paper format.

The look of any graduate school paper is always professional with an accurate date and page numbers indicating when the document was completed. I ask you to place a cover page with your name, phone number, essay title and an abstract of two to three sentences covering the substance of your essay for purposes of privacy because I make extensive comments on your work. Spelling & grammar errors are unacceptable. The format for the papers should be typed, double-spaced, 12 point sized in Arial or Times fonts. All papers are at a minimum 2000 words with a maximum of one-inch margins & a minimum of 22 lines per page.

Formal papers.
All essays have a title based on the paper's contents and clearly marked page numbers [preferably in the upper right hand corner of the pages]. The cover page should have: your full name, phone number, and the date this draft was completed. Do separate the text from a page listing of the literature cited and any notes figures, or graphs you use. Ms. Robertshaw in the Olin Library Writing Center can provide you with a copy of Instructions for Authors. Endnotes or footnotes are preferred rather than the use of parenthesis with author, date, and pages. A final, revised and corrected, essay paper for the term is due on or before November 23, 2015.  You submit a draft for my comments no later than November 9. I anticipate that the best parts of your writings and papers will be shared or verbally presented in class and parts will be posted on the Wiki. Our class wiki will be at: http://wiki.rollins.edu/environment/

V. Course Requirements: 

1. Class attendance and participation policy is based on you and the importance of your personal contributions during class and outside of class by posting your responses to class discussion on the course wiki. I often begin the class with a prompt based on the assigned reading for that day. I ask you to write about that prompt in order to record your response to the author's ideas. Response to my e-mails is part of this policy. During class I pass around an attendance sheet (which I tally up at the need of the term to determine the frequency of your accurate responses to a question I pose on the sheet). On that page you are asked a question about the readings for that session and you have the opportunity to answer the enquiry.

          2. Texts and web links to focus our reading, discussions, and recitations:
Course readings: 
(a) Required Texts:

(b) Write for the:

@– http://wiki.rollins.edu/lakeapopka/index.php/Category:Human

The use of these texts in a final essay should demonstrate verbally and in writing concepts based on analysis of the changes triggered by agrarian values to ecological images of nature and sanctuaries.

3. Assignments

(a) The pictorial analysis. What are the minimum requirements? Select a series of paintings or photographs we have used in class and compare them to photographs or paintings you research: 
                                    (1) Create a storyboard with chronological sequencing of five authors portrayal to the next.

                                    (2) Interpret the material used by describing the scene, tie that to ideas in the text, & convey the changes that occurred speculating on the impacts of land-use based on the readings. Due in drafts in the report weeks and finally revised and resubmitted 11-30.

 (b) Wiki – In writing and revising responses to the writings based on all of the authors, you should pay particular attention to the development of an ecologically literate understanding of nature. In a 250 word (minimum) per week use the authors to convey what triggered and sustained the changes in attitudes about nature and human responsibility that lies behind ecological restoration today.

(c) Two book-based essays are taken from required texts and readings above: Williams to Irving. Due 10-14 and 11-11 (resubmitted on 11-30-15)

VI. Grading Procedures:

Grades are earned based on the work you submit expressing comprehension of  the readings by use of multiple examples & especially contrasting one author's ideas with the others.
(best)                      90-91-92                  A-              93-94-95-96            A
(better)                  80­-81-82                  B-              83-84-85-86            B               87-88-89                  B+
(average)               70-71-72                  C-              73-74-75-76            C                77-78-79                  C+
(deficient)            60-61-62                  D-              63-64-64-66            D               67-68-69                  D+
(unacceptable)  59 & lower               Failure

Improvement over the duration of the term is expected if your grade is to remain in the B or A ranges.
The quality of your writing grades is based on a rubric that is posted on Blackboard™ for you to review before you submit a paper. I count the number of references and frequency of citations in all of your papers.

The quality of your class participation grade is derived daily from your particular references to the texts when speaking. By reading or referring to extensive passages in the books, or to information from use of the class web site or wiki, you may improve your participation grade for the days you are in class. The goal here is for you to practice verbal communication skills in order to inform yourself and others of a book's meanings.



VII. Academic accountability, 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 insufficiently accredited, or not acknowledged at all, you undermine an essay’s reliability. The consequences are that you can fail that project, or even fail the class, since these offenses are a violation of the College’s honor code. As such, I am obliged to report such violations to the Dean.

Each student in this course is expected to abide by the Rollins College Academic Integrity, Honor Code.  Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student's own work. [Optional: For this course, collaboration is allowed in the following instances: study groups & wiki postings.] You are encouraged to study together and to discuss information and concepts covered in lecture and the sections with other students. You can give "consulting" help to or receive "consulting" help from such students. However, this permissible cooperation should never involve one student having possession of a copy of all or part of work done by someone else, in the form of an e-mail, an e-mail attachment file, a diskette, or a hard copy. All help must be stated in writing on any submissions to the instructor.

During examinations, you must do your own work. Talking or discussion is not permitted during the examinations, nor may you compare papers, copy from others, or collaborate in any way. Any collaborative behavior during the examinations will result in failure of the exam, and may lead to failure of the course and disciplinary action. Should copying occur, both the student who copied work from another student and the student who gave material to be copied might both automatically receive a zero for that assignment.

A student signature on the following pledge is a binding commitment by the student that lasts for his or her entire tenure at Rollins College: The development of the virtues of Honor and Integrity are integral to a Rollins College education and to membership in the Rollins College community. Therefore, I, a student of Rollins College, pledge to show my commitment to these virtues by abstaining from any lying, cheating, or plagiarism in my academic endeavors and by behaving responsibly, respectfully and honorably in my social life and in my relationships with others. This pledge is reinforced every time a student submits work for academic credit as his/her own. Students shall add to the paper, quiz, test, lab report, etc., the handwritten signed statement

"On my honor, I have not given, nor received, nor witnessed any unauthorized assistance on this work."

VIII Calendar

William Cullen Bryant with Thomas Cole, in the Catskill Mountains: "Kindred Spirits"              

Kindred Spirits

Oil Painting by Asher Brown Durand, 1849. NYC: Metropolitan Museum of Art.


VIII Calendar for Environmental Literature, Fall 2015 –

Week, Dates                            Class activities         Topics                                           Assignments
August 24             First day
August 26             Who are we, you and me?
August 28 }           Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Frost contrasted

 2, See this overview page for the week.
August 31              What is Environmental Literature?
September 2             Washington Irving's, Sleepy Hollow
September 4 }       √ read your favorite passage from Irving to the class.

September 7 | Labor Day holiday, no class

Weekly focus is: √ How is death important to defining life: a dualism.
September 9           • William Cullen Bryant, Thanatopsis; What are themes?
September 11 }           √ Read Thanatopsis aloud in the woods

4, Weekly focus is: √ Developing themes from dualism to a dialectical approach to defining what is literature.
September 14     •  draft of interpretive writing about the GardenNature: writing about our milieu
September 16          • William Faulkner, The Bear
September 18 }            √ Read Faulkner aloud in the woods

 5, Weekly focus is: √ Compare Faulkner to Hemingway.
September 21          • The Big Two Hearted River Ernest Hemingway
September 23          • read your favorite passage from this to the class.
September 25 }         • read your favorite passage from this to the class. Compare and Contrast Faulkner and Hemingway's stories in writing.

Post to the Class Wiki

6, Weekly focus is: √ What is nature writing vs. interpretive prose?
September 28          • Writing about natural subjects draft of writing about Mead Botanical Garden. See the Rollins Olin Library archive page on the relation of Mead Garden's to the College.
September 30          • Annie Dillard "Living like Weasels" &   • Joyce Carol Oates Against Nature Compare and Contrast Dillard with Oates
October 2 }           Interpret a part of Mead Gardens due

Post to the Class Wiki

 7, Weekly focus is: √ rewriting your assignments.
October 5           • Joyce Carol Oates Against Nature
October 7           • interpret your passages from this to the class

Post to the Class Wiki

October 9            Fall Break

October 12            Fall Break (Columbus Day)
October 14           The writer as myth maker, or reciter of facts?
October 16 }          • Written Report on Oates & 3; three writer's works of your choice from: list due 10-16, based on Oates' criticism.


9, Weekly focus is: √ Compare and Contrast two American writers.
October 19          • Mark Twain or Samuel Langhorne Clemens “Letters from the Earth” [1910] pp. 1-19.
October 21          • interpret your passages from this to the class
October 23 }           A reading of a selected Thoreau work in the woods

Post to the Class Wiki

10, Weekly focus is: √ How does freedom and concern for protecting nature go together?
October 26          • Terry T. Williams, The Open Space of Democracy
October 28          • interpret your passages from this to the class
October 30 }           Report verbally and in writing on what Thoreau, Williams, & Twain have in common.

Post to the Class Wiki

11, Weekly focus is: √ To what extent can humans alter natural, physical and biological conditions?
November 2          • Stoppard Arcadia
November 4          • interpret your passages from this play to the class
November 6 }         √ read & interpret your passages from Stoppard.

Post to the Class Wiki

12, Weekly focus is: √ Does racial and ethnic difference influence attitudes about nature?
November 9            • W. E .B. Dubois, The Black Belt, or Philadelphia (see: Essays on Yonkers, New York.)
November 11          • interpret your passages from this to the class: Draft of a theme paper drawn from evidence based n the writings of five to seven authors.
November 13 }       √    Can the garden (open space) teach us about racial identity? Post to the Class Wiki

13, Weekly focus is: √ Can we describe nature, without distorting what we value from our ecological perspectives?
November 16          • Zora Neale Hurston on Eatonville, Florida
November 18          • interpret your passages from this to the class
November 20 }       √ What does the garden (open space) teach us about America? Post to the Class Wiki

14, Weekly focus is: √ Does the ecology of a place affect our appreciation for and effectiveness when writing about nature?
November 23          • Willa Cather, The American Southwest: Death Comes for the Archbishop
Thanksgiving break
November 30          • Essay on a theme from three or more authors due; Redrafted papers submitted [revised from 11-11-15]
                     This is a written formal, revised essay on a well described theme drawn from evidence based n the writings of five to seven author's ideas about nature when contrasted and compared to Twain and an author you favor.

15. Weekly focus is: √ Creating verbal reports from your descriptive, analytical, and interpretive writing.
December 2          •Verbally Report on your written drafts about expressing yourself concerning nature in an ecologically literate manner.
December 4 }           The last Garden visit, describe the visit & Post to the Class Wiki
December 7          2PM-4PM
Final Exam: verbal reports; A rehearsed "On a well defined theme"    Monday, December 7 @ 2–4 p.m.

IX. Accommodations: A statement about accommodating students with significant concerns.
Rollins College is committed to equal access and does not discriminate unlawfully against persons with disabilities in its policies, procedures, programs or employment processes. The College recognizes its obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to provide an environment that does not discriminate against persons with disabilities.

If you are a person with a disability on this campus and anticipate needing any type of academic/medical accommodations in order to participate in your classes, make timely arrangements by disclosing this disability in writing to the Disability Services Office at (Box 2772)–Mills Building, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, FL, 32789. Schedule appointments by calling 407-646-2354 or by e-mailing: gridgeway@rollins.edu

X.  Inclusivity Statement
We understand that our members represent a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives. The Environmental Studies department and the Science Division are committed to providing an atmosphere for learning that respects diversity. While working together to build this community we ask all members to:

XI. The time you spend on this course is the subject of a College wide policy on "Credit Hour Statement for Rollins Courses Meeting 150 Minutes Weekly for Four Credit Hours during 15-Week Semesters"
This course is a four-credit-hour course that meets three hours per week. The value of four credit hours results from work expected of enrolled students both inside and outside the classroom.  Rollins faculty require that students average at least three hours of outside work for every hour of scheduled class time.  In this course, the additional outside-of-class expectations are for you to write and revise your writing for the wiki, meet in groups to discuss the readings, and have at least one office visit before the mid-term.
Every week summarize the readings and lectures on the WIKI by posting no less than 500 words of writing in your own expression and style of what A) main ideas, B) events, C) people and places were significant in the readings.

To obtain credit for out of class work you may document your frequent meetings with Reference Librarians, tutors, and writing consultants in the Olin Library. You may use the College Archives to interpret the documents there on the history of Mead Botanical Gardens, or Lake Apopka. You may interview members of the community about ideas you have derived from the readings, class discussions, Media-site lectures, and videos.


Closing remark.

We live in a world where fraud and misrepresentation are more rampant than one may desire. You and I are better than that, so that I would hope our enduring acquaintance with each other is based on the care we take in how and what we say to one another in the work we do together to learn about how together we may improve your skills and perhaps leave our world in a better condition than we found it.


Do we devour the world to improve what we leave behind, or merely to exist very well?