Literature and the Environment



Spring 2015

Term: Spring 2015

LIT 4434.001 (3 credit hours)
CRN: 28874

Location: amED 116, TR, 9:30-10:50


Professor Swanstrom (Lisa)

Office CU-330

Office Hours: W, 2-4 and by appointment

Email address:


Welcome!A very warm welcome to LIT 4434, “Literature and the Environment,” with your Professor, Dr. Swanstrom (Lisa).  My office hours and contact information are listed at the top of this syllabus.  The best way to contact me is through email: .

Course Description
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, perhaps most 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.

Course Objectives
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, and video games; cultural matrices, including ecocriticism, cultural studies, natural history, the history of science, and political science; and historical periods, from antiquity to the present.

Grade Breakdown

20% Participation, thoughtful contributions to class discussions and group work

15% Quizzes, may be announced or unannounced

40% Homework, e.g., discussion questions, close readings, and short response papers; prompts and deadlines will be given in class.

25% Final Project of 8-10 pages about how one of the literary-artistic works that we have read contributes to a more complex understanding of the environment.


Grading Scale

100-94: A       90-93: A-    87-89:  B+    84-86: B     80-83: B-   77-79: C+

74-76: C       73-70: C-    67-69:  D+    66-64: D    63-60: D-  Below 60: F



Elder The Norton Book of Nature Writing Norton

ISBN:  978-0-393-94634-5




The Ecocriticism Reader Univ. of Georgia Press

ISBN: 9780820317816


Callenbach Eco-topia Random House

ISBN: 9780553348477


LeGuin The Word for World Is Forest Mac Higher

ISBN: 9780765324641



Other Texts:

Miscellaneous essays—as well as other materials—will be available as handouts or online.


Careful reading, active participation in class discussions, thoughtful contributions to the online forum, a high quality of written work, and well-planned presentations are all required to be successful in this course. In other words, come to class, do your work, be prepared, be original, be courteous, be critical, be kind, be on time.

Attendance is mandatory.  Missing more than two classes will result in a negative consequence upon your final grade.  Coming to class on time is also mandatory.  Every three tardies will count as an absence.  More than two weeks’ worth of unexcused absences will result in a zero participation grade; more than three weeks’ worth of unexcused absences will result in an F for the course.

Late work will be penalized a full letter grade for each day past due. Scheduling conflicts do arise, so you are welcome to turn in one late paper or homework assignment, no questions asked, within three days of the original deadline. This does not apply for the final project. Please take advantage of my office hours or make an appointment to discuss your ideas for your papers, projects, and general progress—or just to chat.

 Class Etiquette:

  • Preparedness: Be sure to have read all assigned readings thoroughly. I strongly recommend you mark the text and take reading notes. In-class writings and discussions will be based on a close analysis of the assigned readings, so you must to bring your own copy of the assigned text and your reading responses to each class meeting.
  • Punctuality: Come to class on time.
  • Active Participation: Since this course is designed to form a community of readers and writers, your active contribution to class discussions, peer editing workshops, and team assignments is important.
  • Class conduct: You are expected to give the class your complete attention and to actively engage in all class activities, and to treat all members of the class community respectfully.
  • Courtesy: Pagers or cellular phones should be turned off or not brought into the classroom.   Radios, iPods, portable gaming systems, and other electronic media devices should not be used in the classroom.   Disruptive behavior, as defined in the Student Handbook, will not be tolerated.  If it persists, it will be grounds for removal from the class.
  • Professionalism: Use collegiate and professional vocabulary in your assignments, written correspondence, and discussion.



Disability Policy Statement

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), students who require special accommodation due to a disability to properly execute course work must register with the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) — in Boca Raton, SU 133 (561-297-3880); in Davie, MOD 1 (954-236-1222); in Jupiter, SR 117 (561-799-8585); or at the Treasure Coast, CO 128 (772-873-3305) – and follow all OSD procedures.


Code of Academic Integrity Policy Statement

Students at Florida Atlantic University are expected to maintain the highest ethical standards. Academic dishonesty is considered a serious breach of these ethical standards, because it interferes with the University mission to provide a high quality education in which no student enjoys an unfair advantage over any other. Academic dishonesty is also destructive of the University community, which is grounded in a system of mutual trust and places high value on personal integrity and individual responsibility. Harsh penalties are associated with academic dishonesty. For more information, see the Code of Academic Integrity in the University Regulations at



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