What is the English with Literature and the Environment concentration?
We are delighted to announce that the English department has created a new major concentration, English with Literature and the Environment (ENLE). English majors at Colby now have the opportunity to focus their research through the lens of the environmental humanities (EH). This specially crafted route through the English major will give students the opportunity to hone their analytic and creative skills, and help them develop as a sophisticated understanding of environmental problems and solutions. Like all English majors, students who choose to pursue the ENLE concentration will develop an acute awareness of social, political, and economic contexts. However, they will also have the opportunity to continually build their understanding of environmental perspectives in the past, present, and future. Colby is one of only a handful of colleges in the US to offer an environmental literature concentration, so being a part of this program is truly a unique opportunity.
Why is the ENLE concentration important?
Climate change and other environmental crises are some of the most important issues of our time. The survival of many species, including our own, depends on human awareness and action. The physical processes of these issues, as well as the political blocks to enacting solutions, have been known for decades. These environmental issues are not merely scientific or technological but also deeply human, and need to be tackled from every possible direction. The environmental humanities provides us with ways of addressing these problems from different perspectives, rethinking them in order to take social inequalities and other factors into account, and allowing us to imagine ecologically just futures. The ENLE concentration will challenge students to think through environmental crises and their historical underpinnings from a literary perspective while developing innovative solutions, and will have an explicit focus on issues of environmental justice. This concentration gives students interested in the environmental humanities a chance to become part of a community of like-minded students and faculty, who can share their environmental humanities research and collaborate with one another.
What are the concentration requirements?
The English major with a concentration in literature and the environment (ENLE) requires a minimum of 12 courses:
- 3 courses at the 200 level, to include EN200, EN271, and EN283
- 6 literature courses, 1 of which may be at the 200 level, 5 of which must be at the 300 or 400 level
- 1 EN357 (Literature and the Environment)
- 1 Environmental Studies or Environmental Humanities course outside the English department
- 1 EN493 (Senior Seminar)
Within these 12 courses, majors must meet the following field requirements:
- 1 Poetry course at any level, either literary study or creative writing (P)
- 2 Early Literatures in English courses at any level (E)
- 2 Diasporas and Crossroads courses at any level (D) (literatures of underrepresented groups OR courses that address alternative literatures in ethnic American, diasporic works, or postcolonial literatures)
- 2 Comparative Literatures and Media courses at any level (C) (courses that cross national boundaries, cross historical periods, or intermix media forms)
- 2 (at minimum) courses must be from the ENLE Concentration List (N)
To download the pdf of the complete concentration requirements, please click here.
How can I sign up?
In order to become a part of the ENLE concentration, you must first declare yourself as an English major, and then reach out to your major advisor. For any specific questions, you can contact any of the three faculty members who worked together to create this concentration: Assistant Professor of English Chris Walker ([email protected]), Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Sagaser ([email protected]), and Assistant Professor of English Jay Sibara ([email protected]).
Student Testimonials about the Environmental Humanities
Eana Bacchiochi, Class of 2021, double major in English and Policy
“I first heard about the environmental humanities when I took one of Professor Chris Walker’s classes, and taking it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The ability to know about environmental issues, but also be confident writing about them for different audiences, is something I really enjoyed learning more about.
There has always been such a big emphasis on technology, science, and policy in aiding the renewable energy transition and showing the world that the climate crisis and extinction crisis are real and we need to act. In reality, there are so many people who are left out of these fields. What we need is an interdisciplinary, holistic strategy to get the world to care, and that includes the humanities. Literature can get people to understand what people are going through in the climate crisis, much more so than a scientific article can. It frustrates me that environmentalism is considered niche, because it effects everyone, everywhere. Environmental justice is inherently social justice—they’re not separate.
When I graduate this spring, I hope that EH plays into my future. I’m very interested in the idea of storytelling as a way to connect the general audience to environmental issues.”
Izzy Tonneson, Class of 2024, Environmental Science major
“I didn’t know about EH before coming to Colby—it was one of the great surprises of my freshman year. I knew that I wanted to do something with environmental science that would impact people’s emotions, but I didn’t know tactically how I was going to be able to do that. In coming to Colby I realized that there was an area of study that combines those things.
We need to broaden our purview of how we view the environmental science discipline. There are so many different things that aren’t traditionally ‘science’ that are ways of thinking about the environment. English, and creative writing, are some of those ways to re-conceptualize environmental issues. Also, these creative outlets are more accessible to people and mean more.
EH is a set of values that underpins how I want to act in the real world outside of college. It’s a reminder to me that the social impact of environmental science is something that needs to be at the forefront of the climate movement. I’m not sure whether that will translate into as a job or career, but I know that those values are going to be something I carry with me wherever I go or whatever I do.”
This page was created by Environmental Humanities Program Coordinator Ayla Fudala with help from Assistant Professor of English Chris Walker, Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Sagaser, Professor of English Michael Burke, and Assistant Professor of English Jay Sibara.