Nature Writing


Spring 2014 quarter

Taught by

political science

Today as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, environmental issues are in the mainstream. Concerns about the environment have compelled us to rethink everything from the food we eat to climate change, from the philosophy of the nature to the nature of our communities, from economic policy to our understanding of earth and human history. This program provides an opportunity for students to read and respond to some of the best new environmental writing and ideas in the context of classic texts in the field. We will trace the origins of nature writing, the twin traditions of exploration and romanticism as they emerge and develop in the early 19th and early 20th century. Texts including H.D. Thoreau's Walden; R.W. Emerson's Nature; John Muir's Selected Essays and Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac will form the background for our reading of contemporary nature writing and environmental thinking. We will read contemporary works including Timothy Morton's The Ecological Thought; Gary Snyder's Practice of the Wild; John Vaillent's Tiger; Ann Coplin's The Orchardist; Marc Fiege's Republic of Nature; and other articles, poems and essays.

We will read and discuss each text carefully. We will maintain a reader’s journal in which we reflect upon the text and themes that have emerged in our reading. Students will be expected to write short formal essays, an extended piece of nature writing, and a research essay dealing with a particular topic, writer, or theme that arises from our work. Each student should anticipate becoming the resident expert in the work of at least one of our authors or one major issue.

The program is designed to give students an opportunity to read a variety of important pieces of environmental literature and to work on their own writing. We will share our writing with peer and faculty support and all students will be expected to participate regularly in all phases of the program. Our work will offer opportunities for serious conversation, focused research, and reflection on personal and collective understandings of environmental ethics and action.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

American studies, environmental studies and writing.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.


Date Revision
December 23rd, 2013 New spring opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 24


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30360
So - Sr (16 credits): 30363

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