University of Notre Dame

"What is Nature Now?"

Course Number: ENGL 13186-1
Instructor: John Sitter

Nature’s meaning has never been more important than now, during what one environmental thinker describes as the “most crucial decades in the history of the human species on earth.” This seminar will put our environmental moment in a larger context by exploring versions and visions of the natural world embodied in works of literature from the 20th and 21st centuries. Through study and discussion of poems, novels, and environmental non-fiction, we will consider the role of nature (or “Nature”) in its rich range of imaginative meanings, from Edenic escape to ecological responsibility, from nature poetry to “climate fiction” by novelists Margaret Atwood, Paolo Baciagalupi, and Kim Stanley Robinson. Because seminars proceed through collaborative conversation, participation will be important. Students will be responsible for introducing our class discussion once or twice during the term, several short papers, and midterm and final examinations.