Introduction to Literature and the Environment
This course is a sweeping survey of Western literature and culture from an environmental perspective. In much the same way that feminist critics are interested in literary representations of gender and women, ecological literary and cultural critics (or simply “ecocritics") explore how our relationship to nature is imagined. As with changing perceptions of gender, such literary representations are not only generated by particular cultures, they play a significant role in generating those cultures. Thus, if we wish to understand contemporary America’s attitude toward the environment, its literary history is an excellent place to start. While authors such as Thoreau and Wordsworth may first come to mind in this context, literary responses to environmental concerns are often as old as the issues themselves. Deforestation, air pollution, endangered species, wetland loss, animal rights, and rampant consumerism have all been appearing as controversial issues in Western literature for hundreds - and in some cases thousands - of years.
Starting with an excerpt from one of the West’s earliest texts, The Myth of Gilgamesh, this course will explore the often-ignored literary and cultural history of the natural world. In addition to being an introduction to literature and the environment, we will also be considering philosophy, history, religion, and culture from an environmental perspective. Thus, this course also provides an introduction to the environmental humanities, including environmental history, eco-philosophy, eco-theology, eco-art history, architecture and the environment, and (through the course's films) environmental media studies.
Interested in what students think of this lecture? Professor Hiltner has published all of the student evals for the last time that this course was taught (Fall 2018) to his personal website
Startling in the Fall of 2019, this course satisfies the following three UCSB General Education (GE) requirements: Area E (Culture and Thought), Area G (Literature), and the European Traditions Requirement. In previous years (i.e. Fall of 2018 and before), Eng 22 only satisfied the Area G requirement.
Note that Eng 22 has an optional honors seminar, that is designed to enrich the large lecture experience for the motivated student.
The UCSB Current published an article on this course entitled, "Earthly Concerns".