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Nature, Language, Culture

12:30 Seminar

This course explores the relationships of nature, language, art and culture in literature and film from ecological perspectives. Through our close readings of nature writing, we will examine how "nature" is often popularly imagined in contrast to "culture," a condition that, in part, arose from the perceived need to subordinate the natural world in favor of individual impulse. The idea of an artificial, or structural, divide between nature and culture continues to compel many nature writers to attempt to reconcile such seeming opposing ideas. Many of these writers also treat ideas of nature in tandem with language as an important foundation for the constitution of personal, philosophical, spiritual, national, and global identities. Their work continually opens up questions about how we come to conceive of our relationship to the natural world through language, questions that become even more imperative in a time of ecological crisis, wherein issues about sustainability are in the foreground. This course will ask you to become an active participant in constructing new ideas and new language about nature and humankind's relationship to it through the completion of various "creative" activities and projects, such as journaling about your experience of nature, writing a short story or poem, writing and performing a play about nature, "painting" a landscape, growing a flower, etc. Field trips to sites mentioned in the literature are a possibility. Final research essay will take into account the effects of language on our perceptions of nature, and will take an argumentative stance for one of these positions: 1) conservation, 2) preservation, 3) equal rights for nature, or 4) "ecology without nature." This course extends our conversations from Pacific Seminar I about the human relationship to the natural world, our duty to become active, engaged citizens, and our facility to use critical and creative thinking abilities to effect positive change in our perceptions of ourselves and our relationship to the natural world.