Welcome to the course web site for LIT4434, “Literature and the Environment” (FAU Spring 2015), with your professor, Dr. Swanstrom (Lisa).
Literary and artistic expressions of the American landscape reveal panoramas of breathtaking natural beauty, but they also illuminate panoplies of political and aesthetic ideologies that have shifted dramatically over time. Literary and artistic representations of the environment, in other words, have much to teach us about our selves, our individual and collective beliefs, our history as a nation, and, more importantly, our possibilities for a global future. In spite of its importance, however, is not until fairly recently that “the environment” per se has received the critical and scholarly attention it deserves within literary-aesthetic research.
Given the above, the objectives of this course will be to consider the following questions: How now do we define “nature,” “ecology,” and “environment” in contrast to frameworks of the past? How do the literary and visual arts contribute to these definitions, both historically and in the present? How are expressions of nature and the self mutually informing? How might the environment be said to “act” or possess “agency” in and of itself? How does technology aid or abet environmental discourse? In brief, the objective of this course is to explore the complex relationship between the environment, literature, and the arts. We will examine this important topic across a broad range of literary and artistic forms, including nature writing, fiction, science fiction, “cli-fi,” poetry, philosophy, the visual and plastic arts, computer art, video games, etc; cultural matrices, including ecocriticism, cultural studies, natural history, the history of science, political science, etc; and historical periods, from antiquity to the present.