book Writing Themes in Environmental Literature


Students enrolled in Environmental Literature are encouraged to write in several different ways, every week you should practice "free writing" and then rewrite your informal essays before you consider formal writing and look for three things: clarity, Informative value and frequency of references to specific authors.

Save your work in a word document as an electronic journal. Date the writing every time you write and try to find a thread from one writing to another.

choices | meaning of the approach | submit a sample | argument | content | suggested structure | steps | examples | purpose| warning



But, first write one or two pages in response to a Panel or more at the Global Peace Film Festival, and send me that reaction –if you have not already done so. You may use that response to the panel and film as part of your above selection for the paper, but consider this.

Talk to people about your writing.

When you are writing you will want to compare what you heard or read in other settings to our class discussions about:

1. Do words mean what they say? (The use of "word-play" finding synonyms for phrases used in the writing of ecological texts, nature writing, descriptive essays, or your own writing.)

2. Dualism suggested in the literal as opposed to figurative meaning of words in meaningful phrases.

3. Symbolism that emerges from the fact that words and phrases may have several meanings or the authors use metaphors

4. Dialectic: these are dialectical arguments where the author states a thesis, contradicts that with an antithesis, and summarizes the resolution of their arguments in a synthesis.

5. Paradox:discovering the paradoxical qualities of a writer's thinking and constructing such paradoxes in your writings such as Joyce Carol Oates does in her essay, "Against Nature."


A theme | A thesis statement | The differences

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A) One of which is to select a theme or another is to select a group of contrasting authors around which to analyze an emergent thread identifiable in their prose, poetry, drama, or non-fiction.

Compare Winkler's to Oates' essays with examples from Irving, Hemingway, & Faulkner.

B) What does the choice mean?

1) To choose a theme is a deductive step, but may also indicate a synthetic approach to the readings because you may be comparing divergent story-lines, phrases, arguments, or intentions of several writers.


2) To select several authors to compare and contrast their language is an inductive and analytical approach to the same readings because you are taking from a variety of very different sources passages and arguments in order to build your own thematic analysis of the readings.

You may do either one for your five to seven page essay with notes and citations.

Here is an example of the two different means of reasoning and two different methods used in writing an interpretive essay:

Reasoning A) deductive B) inductive

from a universal (generality) to specific cases.


from specific cases to a universal.


1) analytical to take apart and examine pieces from a general rule. to take apart and examine pieces to create an effectively revealing generalization.
for example:


"We strut and fret our hour upon the stage . . . "

"All the world's a stage."


"Nature . . . . pleases the senses, in any case, as the physicists' chill universe of numbers certainly does not."

"one vast democratic grave"  

J. C. Oates

2) synthetic to bring the parts and pieces together to a examine the verity (reliability) of a general rule. to examine pieces with the aim of forming a universal or general rule that is based on a wide array of evidence.

√ "She is our creation . . . it is in our brains . . . ."

Oscar Wilde, from Oates

• "our fiercely romantic expectations."   

J. C. Oates


THERE is a sample essay about "nature" at this link.


Themes are discussed further at this link. Authors are at this link.

All participants ought to send me a paragraph-long or longer suggestion about what you want to develop.

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A theme or an analysis of the authors' diverse views of how humans express ideas about nature in literature, art, prose, drama, poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. Here I list some readings to build the themes around about which you write.

They are who the author is and what sort of literary work did we read:

      1. William Faulkner, fiction; short-story
      2. Joyce Carol Oates, non-fiction; essay
      3. Washington Irving, fiction; short-story
      4. Ernest Hemingway, fiction; short-story
      5. William Cullen Bryant, poetry
      6. Elizabeth Bishop, poetry
      7. Robert Frost, poetry
      8. Tom Stoppard, drama
      9. Mark Twain, fiction; letter

choices | meaning of the approach | submit a sample | argument | content | structure | steps | examples

The paper guidelines are in the syllabus.

A suggested structure:


Defining your perspectives


parts of any narrative

Supporting evidence | text based examples | content

Core steps | analysis


Introduce the essay,

(You are probably up to page one at this point)


1) Then define the themes that act as support for the foundation you have just described.(2 pages)

2) Then see how other authors, or our class discussions have defined such themes.

3) Use examples of what you mean with passages of each authors own words.

(This will take another page or so depending on if there is an argument over the concept that may make the essay longer, but I reward you for writing and longer or shorter a paper is based on its logic, not its length.)

(You are probably up to three pages at this point.)


defining your perspectives

supporting evidence | text based examples | content

Core steps



NOW, develop your argument as a build-up to the main point.

When you have made your supporting arguments, logically organize the evidence for the support of each assertion.

Then reflect on the relative importance of each significant point you are making, Joyce Carol Oates does this very well.

On my web site are some writing links (See all of these), so look up D. H. Lawrence on my web site search pages and also Laurence Durrell as they have written in some detail about what terms mean in literature.

(As now you are into four or five pages.)

Use evidence from all the readings:

rollYou will want to use as many of our readings, and even what you heard and saw at the panel or the Global Peace Film Festival. Over fourteen films are available to see on line!

But here you want to develop your ideas as they arose from the readings we have done so far.

Here reflect on what Karen Winkler and Joyce Carol Oates have argued.

For example WInkler writes that environmental literature employs the use of ecological criticism in at least one or more of seven ways.

1. Eco-criticism adds a comprehension of place and the importance of settings to the categories of race, class, and gender used to analyze literature.

2. Readers have to explain with references how texts represent the physical world, conditions of existence, the human circumstances in natural situations.

3. Beneath this surface of "natural situations" readers must examine how literature raises moral questions about human interactions with nature.

4. By resurrecting forgotten texts of nature writing, environmental literature reveals changes over time by

          4.1 bringing them into the classroom for reflective discussion, and

          4.2 scholarly argumentation to reveal errors in judgment, style, or narrative explication.

5. Some critics rely on post-modern literary theory to analyze texts, take apart the meaning of the writing and comment on the accuracy of these depictions of the physical, chemical, and biological situations that humans create, endure, or are subjected to by events.

6. The role of women in society is a focus in works by eco-feminists by examining the way representations of nature are influenced by gender and power.

7. Then there are environmental activists who are pointing to the ways in which literature addresses ecological problems or should expose, educate, and enlighten readers.

Do the writers that we have read reveal any, or some of these criteria?

To answer that would mean explicitly to use

(So you are probably up to five and six or more pages at this point.)


defining your perspectives

supporting evidence | text based examples | content

Core steps



How to argue an insight to better make your case?

For an example see these notes on a film: "The River"

• Clarify, that is define the scope and detail level of your essay from the start and refer to that.

• Organize your examples so that they build on basic ideas and lead to details that support or negate your arguments.

• Reflect on the relative merits of the arguments and the evidence provided by the authors. Now try to add any new insight here before you conclude

• Evaluate your case. Pick out the salient points (strongest and clearest findings in the essay) in your analysis or synthesis of the ideas and consider how to restate them so you leave us with a clear impression of the importance of what you discovered when writing.


defining your perspectives

supporting evidence | text based examples | content

Core steps



Sample themes:

For example: "a sense of place" or "human dependence on nature" or "creation is the glory of God's mind manifest in material nature," are all arguably reasonable examples of a challenging theme as reflected in examples of environmental literature.

Besides a formal essay, another is to post good writing responses to the Apopka Community WIKI. For the human dependence on nature see the link with Jeanette Brokenborough, a farm worker, on the Lake Apopka Community Wiki.

Second example:

All in all, a "sense of place" is more a thematic approach to some of what we have read, such as the settings of Sleepy Hollow, or The Bear, or Seney Michigan's countryside.

What about place (David Orr in Ecological Literacy, for example, has argued that understanding place as a situation is basic to understanding environmental studies and science.)?

Third example:

So I would see how many ways "a sense of place" is manifest in what we have read (Washington Irving versus Elizabeth Bishop is a great place to start, as their contrast would help define what you mean by the term.

To say though, that a "sense of place" is either a central (or definitely important) element or not so crucial focus of environmental literature, is more like a thesis than just saying the the setting of a narrative involves places.

Fourth example:

Go to Mead Botanical Gardens [on 500 South Denning Drive; Denning Drive south of the Railway tracks] and spend some time in a comfortable spot. Write a journal entry of how the place makes you feel, what you observe, and how you might describe this to you close friends, family of grand parents..



defining your perspectives

supporting evidence | text based examples | content

Core steps



Because environmental lit (literature) is such a loosely and generally defined field (first reading we had), you may want to consider how your ideas contribute to holding some parts of the wide discipline together with the focus you are writing about as you see it, supported by the author's to which you have been introduced.

As you approach the seventh or eighth page, consider that you will want to restate your premise, review the salient (or critically powerful) arguments your essay has made.

Now you are better prepared to create a conclusion that does three things:

  1. leaves is with a clear indication —with some depth of definition— of what you discovered
  2. as you searched for this theme among the authors and the web sites, artists, the films, and the speakers remind us of the range or diversity of your sources
  3. restates the main points of the essay in a new and integrated manner in a paragraph.

(The conclusion is your seventh or eighth and last page.)


defining your perspectives

supporting evidence | text based examples | content

Core steps



choices | meaning of the approach | submit a sample | argument | content | structure | steps | examples | purpose

Every writer is, as a matter of course, free to structure the essay as desired for effectiveness, clarity, and coherence.

An initial purpose of this writing exercise is for me to see you have done the readings.

A Second purpose is to clearly determine what you critically think these readings mean and practice your ability to express yourself on paper.

A Third purpose is to evaluate your use of the texts in respect to your theme as you understand that in contrast to the expert literary sources have defined it, such as Joyce Carol Oates, D. H. Lawrence, or Laurence Durrell commenting on a sense of place.

Environmental Literature

Defining environmental literature as a field


A theme | A thesis statement | The differences


choices | meaning of the approach | submit a sample | argument | content | structure | steps | examples | purpose