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Prof. Jim Garrett
Office: E & T A608
Office Hours: TTH 9-9:45am, TH 4:30-6pm
Phone: (323) 343-4163

Course Description

Prerequisites: ENGL 501 and ENGL 502.

In Writing for an Endangered World, Lawrence Buell claims that literary texts are "acts of environmental imagination" capable of affecting "one's caring for the physical world," making that world "feel more or less precious or endangered or disposable" (2). Romanticism has long had complex relationships with both the imagination and the environmental—"nature" and the "natural," "wilderness" and the "wild," the "one life" and "the economy of nature"—and so it is unsurprising that critical interest in the connections between literature and the environment has focused on this literary movement. In both Britain and America, Romanticism has historically been seen as valuing the non-human world, whether to celebrate "nature" as beneficial and necessary antidote to the world of getting and spending, to lament its loss to the human-built environments of modern capitalist industrialism, or to locate in the natural world evidence of what Coleridge called the "one life," his spiritual-philosophical ideal that seems to anticipate our modern ideas of the "ecological."

Or is our "feeling for nature" simply sentimentalism, as Schiller characterizes it, "like the feeling of an invalid for health"? Do the Romantic responses to modern industrial capitalism go beyond nostalgia, primitivism, and anthropocentrism to suggest what Buell calls "alternative futures"? In this course, we will consider how literature both reflects and helps to shape human responses to the natural environment, looking especially at the representation of the physical world and ways of conceptualizing and representing the non-human world and our relationship to it.

Course Requirements: Listed below are the requirements for this course. Please note that students must complete all assignments to pass this class.

Seminar Presentation (10% of your grade): A seminar presentation is a 15-20 minute (or beyond) presentation to the rest of the class about an assigned reading. For the presentation, plan to go beyond regular class preparation, at the very least, providing background about your topic, a generous overview, and a discussion of its relation to other readings for that week (or read earlier). You should also be prepared to answer questions and help lead class discussion for that topic. You should prepare a handout for the class; however, do not simply read from your prepared handout or paper.

Weekly Online Responses (30% of your grade): Each response is a 500-750 word posting that examines the readings assigned for the week. You must complete seven weekly responses. Responses will be submitted online using a blog located at

Responses must be posted by 8am on the Wednesday preceding the assigned readings.

Weekly Response Moderators (10% of your grade): Everyone is encouraged to look at the weekly responses posted by students prior to class. In addition, each week one or  two students will be responsible for reading all postings for the week and producing a short digest to be presented to the class. The digest can be produced as a handout and distributed during class and/or it can be posted to the course blog and presented to the class using a laptop and the projector.

Seminar Paper (50% of your grade): This assignment is a researched seminar paper following the format of an article that could be submitted to a professional journal in the field. Such papers are generally 5,000-8000 words in length, engage current scholarship, and offer an original argument or perspective.

Required Texts: The following texts are required for this class:

Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. (978-0199535538)

Muir, John. My First Summer in the Sierra and Selected Essays. New York: Library of America, 2011. (978-1598531114)

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus: The 1818 Text. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. (978-0199537150)

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. (978-0199538065)

Wolfson, Manning, eds. The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2A. Fifth Edition. New York: Longman. (978-0205223169)


Note:   Any edition of Austen’s Mansfield Park, Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra, and Thoreau’s Walden can be substituted for the texts ordered for the class. Any printing of the 1818 edition of Shelley’s Frankenstein can be substituted for the text listed above. The fourth edition of The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2A (978-0205655281) can be substituted for the fifth edition.


Additional required readings will be available online at the course web site.


ADA Accommodation: Reasonable accommodation will be provided to any student who is registered with the Office of Students with Disabilities and requests needed accommodation.

Grading Policy: The distribution of points for the individual assignments in this course is listed in “Requirements” above. Course grades are based on standard percentages (i.e. A = 90%-100%, B = 80%-89% and so on). Plus and minus grades are used in the class.

Electronic Devices: Please be respectful of the classroom experience of others. Every quarter I receive earnest complaints from students about the distracting behavior of other students using electronic devices. Unless the use of such devices is approved by the Office of Students with Disabilities, please do not use electronic devices during class.

Contacting Me: I am available in my office during my posted office hours and, schedule allowing, by appointment. Email is also an effective way of contacting me.

Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. I will take attendance at the start of every class. If you are not present I will mark you absent. Arriving late will count as half of an absence. You are allowed one absence without penalty. Each absence beyond the first one will reduce your course grade. If you miss more than four classes you will be disqualified from taking the final and therefore will fail the class.

Preparing for Class: Please read the assigned texts before class. Often I will offer some guidelines about future reading assignments in class. For example, I might tell you to focus on a particular text for the next class meeting. If you are absent, you are responsible for getting the assignment from a classmate.

Written Assignments: Please note the following carefully when preparing your written assignments for this class:

Academic Dishonesty/Cheating: Collaborating with others is encouraged when you are planning your papers, reviewing each other’s work, preparing for presentations or for exams. Study or reading groups can be effective ways to study and learn. However, when you write your papers, the text needs to be your own.

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Last Update: 04/3/2013