New EH Courses Created by Center Grants
PL297: Vegan Studies: Animals, Politics, Environment, and Health
Jan Plan, Keith Peterson
This Environmental Humanities Lab explores the Freedom and Captivity theme. Philosophers have criticized nonhuman animal captivity and exploitation for decades, and have been at the forefront of debates in animal ethics and environmentalism. Going beyond traditional approaches, more recent approaches to veganism define it as a social movement committed to total liberation for nonhumans and humans alike. The course explores the principles behind these approaches, introducing students to the philosophical, political, environmental, and health aspects of veganism as a social movement and mode of subsistence. Site visits to a farm animal sanctuary and a veganic farm; hands-on plant-based meal preparation; virtual dialogues with vegan activists; and disseminating knowledge through conducting vegan “cook it forward” events complement what students will learn through text and film. They will learn the moral philosophy and political dimensions of animal liberation and environmentalism, the environmental and health impacts of animal agriculture, and the practical know-how to sustain a vegan mode of subsistence.
EN 357: Literature and Environment: Mobile Subjects in a Planetary Crisis
Spring 2022, Christopher Walker
This Environmental Humanities Lab explores the Freedom and Captivity theme by introducing students to the history and diverse traditions of global environmental writing. By analyzing this tradition, students will gain mastery over a range of methods for interpreting representations of nature, human-environment relations, and nonhuman animals, with a focus on how these representations intersect with the history of environmental racism and environmental justice movements. Analyzing conversations about environmental racism and forced environmental migration, and the current planetary-scale thinking of environmental discourse, science, and activism, this course focuses on literature in which the protagonists are dislodged from their homes all while developing new ways to mourn environmental loss and be resilient in the face of crisis. Prerequisite: English 200 or 283. Four credit hours. Image created by “Shakespeare’s Monkey”.
WG339: Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities
Spring 2022, Jay Sibara
We will examine disability as a social construction of environmental discourse and as an embodied experience produced by environmental violence. Readings will illuminate the ways in which able-ism has informed environmentalist thought and contributed to the exclusion of people with disabilities from environmental movements. We will then examine works of literature, film, and scholarship that focus on the disabling effects of environmental violence, but in doing so offer alternative possibilities for a politics of environmental justice that promotes the health and well-being of marginalized communities without resorting to ableist tropes. Prerequisite: Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies 101, 241 or English 283.
Other Courses in the Environmental Humanities
AY256: Land, Food, Culture, and Power
Mary Beth Mills
An examination of cultural and political aspects of land and other resource use, using the lens of political ecology and, a variety of ethnographic examples in different parts of the world. Case studies focus on ongoing conflicts over contested resources and related efforts to challenge experiences of environmental and food injustices. Students will apply conceptual tools from political ecology and environmental anthropology to develop a research project on a relevant topic of their choosing. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112.
AY365: Space, Place, and Belonging
Examines the origins of human claims to belonging in particular places and landscapes. We consider embodied space, as well as how place produces and is produced by gender, race, and other social identities. Our analysis spans spatial scales, with a particular focus on the Americas. We examine the social processes of community formation, enabling connection even as they generate exclusions and boundaries; the infrastructures of place and community, their material deployment and how they enable particular forms of belonging; and how mobility in the contemporary moment contributes to the emergence of new identities as well vulnerabilities. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112.
CL153: Environmental Approaches to Antiquity
The unparalleled speed and intensity of humanity’s effects upon the earth make the environment seem like a uniquely modern concern, but the ancient Greeks and Romans asked many of the same questions as us. How long will the earth support life? How will environmental change influence human migration and history? What duties do humans have to other species? In this course we will not only analyze their answers to such questions but consider topics as diverse as environmental determinism and its legacy in modern racism; the unsustainability of ancient imperialism; the fall of the Roman Empire; and the impact of monotheism upon classical conceptions of nature.
EN283: Environmental Humanities: Stories of Crisis and Resilience
What can literature teach us about nature and environmental justice? Do the humanities and environmental studies share a vision of a sustainable future? Is it possible to understand climate change without telling stories about its uneven global impacts? To address these and other questions, we will examine how the environmental humanities implicitly respond to the “two cultures” debate. We will then investigate the relationship between environmental justice and western societies’ extractive logics, economies, and management of nature. From within this theoretical framework we will analyze novels, poetry, and environmental films. Fulfills English C and D requirements. There will be two sections of this course, one taught by Christopher Walker and one taught by a Visiting Assistant English Professor TBD.
EN314: 17th-Century Literature and the Natural World
Explores English literature written during the scientific revolution, including a Shakespeare play, poems and prose by women, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. How do these texts imagine the natural world and the human within it? How do they propose or challenge boundaries between human and non-human animals? How do attitudes toward the environment emerge, change and persist in literary history and more broadly in the history of ideas? We seek answers through lively reading strategies, creative exercises, and research both online and in Special Collections archives. Fulfills English E and P requirements.
HI348: U.S. Environmental History
We will consider nature’s role in shaping history. How do our stories change when we include microbes, pigs, and the climate, alongside subjects like presidents, wars, and ideas? We will also ask what nature has meant to a range of people including the Comanche on the Great Plains, settler-farmers in New England, and coal miners in Colorado. The aim is that you begin to think about nature differently: how ideas about nature have changed, how nature surrounds & nourishes us and has been used to justify violence & racism, and how nature impedes on our lives.
IT244: Pastoral Cookbook: Classic Recipes and New Cooking Techniques
Investigates the idea of the pastoral as a “comfort food recipe” rooted in the classical tradition, whose simple ingredients have inspired sophisticated “cooking techniques” and contemporary reinventions. Students will explore four ingredients–milk, root vegetables, meat, and honey–through literary and visual texts, and theories in the environmental humanities. They will also engage in experiential learning by visiting local organic farms. Students will share their findings in a digital pastoral cookbook in which recipes and stories from the farms are connected with ancient and contemporary narratives of pastoral landscapes. Taught in English. Freedom and Captivity humanities lab.
PL126: Philosophy and the Environment
An introduction to philosophy through prominent questions and themes in environmental philosophy. Topics include the historical context and causes of environmental crisis, anthropocentrism, animal rights, intrinsic value, biocentrism, ecocentrism, and radical social theories, incorporating core philosophical issues in ethics, philosophical anthropology, and nature philosophy. These provide resources for clear and creative reasoning on the philosophical aspects of creating sustainable communities, for reflection on value priorities, and for exploration of relationships between academic work and social responsibility.
PL328: Radical Ecologies
Radical ecologies interrogate our everyday, scientific, and metaphysical conceptions of nature, they emphasize that environmental problems in human-to-nature relations originate in human-to-human relations (e.g., gender, class, and race relations), and they call for comprehensive social and cultural changes through their critiques of existing social forms. They critically explore the historical, cultural, ethical, political, economic, and technological aspects of the place of the human in nature. Readings from anarchist social ecology, deep ecology, ecofeminism, and ecosocialism. Prerequisite: One philosophy course.
RE218: Global South Asia: Literature, Art, Environment
Explores South Asians in their diasporic and transnational context. What contributions are Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Jews, and Sikhs from the South Asian subcontinent making to contemporary global literature, film, art, and environmentalism? How do tradition and modernity intersect in their works? How do they negotiate religion, gender, sexuality, race, class, environmentalism, medicine, and globalization? Includes writings by Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Hanif Kureishi, Shashi Tharoor; films by Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta; art by Siona Benjamin, Anish Kapoor, M.F. Husain, Arpana Caur, Singh Twins; and the environmentalist works of Vandana Shiva and Maneka Gandhi.
WP115I: First-Year Writing: Landscape and Place
Reading fiction, essays, and poetry, we will explore the nature of place and landscape as physical, social, and intellectual and consider what it suggests about American culture and ideas. We will consider how place and landscape, both real and imagined, influence writers as well as how these concerns influence our own lives as readers, writers, thinkers, and dreamers. In this first-year writing course, students will write personal narratives, argument, and synthesis as well as develop their critical reading skills.
AM228: Nature and the Built Environment
Built environments order human experience and action, shaping people’s sense of themselves and the world. We examine how the built environment has influenced and expressed Americans’ relationships with nature. We track how ideas about the natural environment emerge in different historical and geographical settings and consider the material and environmental consequences of these beliefs. Topics include park design, suburban development, environmental justice campaigns, and green building. In this reading-intensive discussion course, students develop abilities to interpret material, spatial, visual, and historical evidence.
AY229: Reading Ethnographies of Climate Change and the Crisis of Capitalism
The ethnographic genre is unique to anthropology. Through focused reading and discussion of ethnographies on the theme of climate change, students will develop analytic and critical reading skills in this genre. The texts approach climate change from a wide variety of anthropological perspectives, from the impact of fossil fuel extraction on host communities to disaster relief efforts to community-based initiatives of ecological sustainability. We will focus on the form and genre of the assigned ethnographies, engage in close textual analysis, and read comparatively. Class will be run as an open discussion seminar. The course will also include a consideration of art about climate change in relation to our assigned ethnographies. Environmental humanities lab. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112.
EN342: Literature of the Rural
The “rural” in the American imaginary depends on a relation between the city and country that challenges systems of belief and value about the natural world and the possibility of human agency within it. Many of the myths of place writers create are essentially rural and pastoral rather than urban and industrial spaces, including Stephen Crane’s Whilomville, William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, and William Carlos Williams’s Paterson. Concentrating on novels, stories, essays, and poetry, we will explore the dynamic play of margin and center, national and local identity, and the shifting sense of what it means to be, and not be, “rural” and American in the long 20th century. Prerequisite: Any W1 course.
LT3XXA: Environmental Writing in Latin Literature
The interventions made by the ancient Romans in the environments that they inhabited and invaded were unprecedented in terms of both scale and intensity. Such interventions ranged from the redistribution of water by aqueducts to the large-scale deforestation and pollution, whose scars on the landscapes of the Mediterranean are still visible. In this course, we will be reading in their original Latin a variety of authors (e.g. Varro, Virgil, Ovid, Pliny the Elder) whose works articulate the complex responses elicited by this “conquest” of the natural world, ranging from nostalgia for agricultural life to the praise of technological marvels. Prerequisite: Latin 131 or equivalent.
EA120: Nature in East Asian Literature and Culture
Combines readings of traditional literature with an exploration of the perceived relationship between nature and man, as reflected in the literary, visual, and material culture of China, Japan, and Korea. Students will improve writing skills through weekly writing reflections, two short essays, and one research paper. Other goals include, hone analytical skills through close reading of East Asian texts; reflect critically on the relationship between the natural world and man in East Asian culture, and how these views might enrich our own; and acquire an understanding of how literature and art can both shape and reflect our world view.
EN283: Environmental Humanities: Stories of Crisis and Resilience
What can literature teach us about nature and environmental justice? Do the humanities and environmental studies share a vision of a sustainable future? Is it possible to understand climate change without telling stories about its uneven global impacts? To address these and other questions, we will examine how the environmental humanities implicitly respond to the “two cultures” debate. We will then investigate the relationship between environmental justice and western societies’ extractive logics, economies, and management of nature. From within this theoretical framework we will analyze novels, poetry, and environmental films. Fulfills English C and D requirements.
EN363: The Enlightenment and the Anthropocene
This seminar is guided by the question: Is the Anthropocene a product of the Enlightenment? We will explore questions of what exactly “the Enlightenment” and “the Anthropocene” are, and when and where slippages in our usage or understanding of these concepts cause confusion and error that can ripple across disciplines. Fulfills English C and E requirements.
FR326: Sustainable Development in/of the French-Speaking World
Will examine how cities from throughout the French-speaking world are enacting solutions for sustainable living. Blending the environmental humanities with cultural studies, we will seek to understand the challenges cities face–including legacies of imperialism, fraught relations with indigenous peoples, and social inequalities–and the solutions these cities have introduced. Learning goals include examining how cities from throughout the French-speaking world are responding to climate change; studying how responding to climate change dovetails with the fight for social justice; and solidifying advanced-level proficiency in French. Prerequisite: French 231 and at least one other 200-level course.
RE232: American Spirituality and the Environment
Examines historical and contemporary connections between spirituality and environmentalism in American culture. From early Quakers to mid-19th-century Romantics to contemporary Buddhists, we explore how individuals and groups in the United States have conceived of the relationship between environmentally responsible living, spiritual discipline, and social witness. While the course will span geographic regions, special attention is paid to movements and figures centered in Maine. Previously listed as RE298B (Spring 2019).
WGSS 398: Salvage Theory
How do we contest the waste and wild destruction of our present moment? There is a commonplace that theory is merely academic, but engaged and multidimensional critique is a practice of solidarity, of affirmation and reclamation that is vital in dark times. The course introduces critical theory and its critique of capitalist society and fascism, but our focus will settle on critical climate studies and how to salvage radical thought for life on a damaged planet. Students interested in gender, racial and environmental justice will learn critical vernaculars that support their capacity to think, write, and resist in open and supple ways.