The Wilds of Literature

Nowadays, when we think about the interaction between human beings and nature, we tend to focus on environmental damage: deforestation, pollution, climate change and the catastrophes to which it has contributed. In this course, however, we will read Anglo-American literature that represents the interaction between humans and the natural world as joyous, sublime, revelatory, and mutually sustaining. We will traverse the Lake District with William Wordsworth, Walden Pond with Henry David Thoreau, and the Grand Canyon with Lauret Savoy. We will listen to Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes “sing America,” and read breathtakingly beautiful fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature about plants and animals, hiking and fishing, the earth, the ocean, and the sky. Without denying that human beings have damaged the world we inhabit—and that certain groups have been systematically barred from enjoying equal access to its beauty and bounty—we will focus on the role that pleasure, wonder, and hope might play in helping us to envision new modes of engagement with each other and an ever-changing environment.