American Studies

Since 1998 I have been a member of the Core Faculty in American Studies and I am currently serving as the chair of the American Studies program. My coursework in American Studies has included courses on the 1980s, theories of space and place, and environmental literature. I also manage the American Studies Web Page.

Beyond Keene State College, I have been fortunate to collaborate with colleagues around the world in shaping the direction of an interdisciplinary field of study: the environmental humanities. My scholarly work in this field has been in the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). Since 1992, ASLE has brought together teachers, writers, students, artists and environmentalists interested in the natural world and its meanings and representations in language and culture. ASLE is an interdisciplinary and international organization with over 1400 members and affiliated organizations throughout the world, including Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

At Keene State College I have offered students a range of learning opportunities in this field of study:  my first year writing course focused around environmental themes; I taught an American studies topics course on representations of the environment in American literature, painting and photography; I developed general education courses focusing on women nature writers and uncertainty and belief in American poetry; I designed and team-taught a course, “Mountains and the Literary Imagination,” with my English department colleague William Stroup, and collaborated with my colleague in biology, Kristen Porter-Utley, on a Thinking and Writing course, “The Science and Literature of Plants.” Moreover, my interests in American literature, and more particularly, poetry, merged through the study of poets with environmental interests and concerns.

More recently, I worked across institutions to promote the concept of the environment and ecological literacy as central to a liberal arts education. And, as an affiliate faculty member in Environmental Studies, I have worked more closely with my colleagues in the natural sciences and the Environmental Studies program to offer interdisciplinary and integrative experiences for students at Keene State College. I piloted the first humanities course in the sciences at Keene State College that is now a regular offering, Environmental Studies 363: Writing in an Endangered World, and in the 2011-12 academic year I taught my course “What is Nature?” with a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

My involvement with ASLE goes back many years. I have attended biennial conferences in Missoula, Montana (1997); Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo (1999); Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff (2001); Boston University (2003); the University of Oregon, in Eugene (2005); Wofford College, in Spartanburg, South Carolina (2007); the University of Victoria, in British Columbia (2009); and Indiana University, In Bloomington (2011). In addition to presenting my own work in progress, and publishing field-defining writing in ecological poetry, ecopoetics, and ecocomposition, I have worked diligently to strengthen the organization. As a member of the ASLE Executive Council, I collaborated with officers and members to envision a Managing Director position, refine the ASLE mission, organize ASLE-sponsored sessions at regional conferences, including the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA), the Northeast Modern Language Association (NEMLA), the Modern Language Association (MLA), and the American Literature Association (ALA). And from 2001-2015 I served as the Coordinator of the ASLE Mentoring Program. The mission of the ASLE Mentoring Program is to connect graduate students with experienced faculty mentors beyond their home institutions and to cultivate intellectual exchange and community among scholars at all stages of their academic careers.

Over the years I developed a range of activities to facilitate intellectual exchange and community among the members of our rapidly growing organization. I responded to interest from our affiliated organizations for mentoring by developing relationships with the help of ASLE members who have worked or taught outside the US. I worked closely with the ASLE International Liaison and other members to meet needs of students and scholars outside the US. And in the 2012-13 academic year I helped to implement a new two-year ASLE membership grant program for international students. I served on the selection committee that awards fifty membership grants every two years.

In the fall of 2012 I was elected president of ASLE. I served as vice president in 2013, president in 2014, and immediate past president in 2015. During my presidential year I helped to lead a group charged with recreating the public face of the association our new web site now connects members and provides a more robust set of resources for members and the public. This material includes a new mission statement, a vision and history statement, and a dozen or more news items. Here is the mission and history of the association that I wrote and that is now published on the ASLE web site:

The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) seeks to inspire and promote intellectual work in the environmental humanities and arts. Our vision is an inclusive community whose members are committed to environmental research, education, literature, art and service, environmental justice, and ecological sustainability.

ASLE was founded in 1992 by a group of scholars and writers interested in exploring the meanings of the natural environment and the complexities of human relationships with each other, and with the more-than-human world, and to deepening the impact of these explorations both within and beyond the classroom. While ecocritical teaching and scholarship developed in literary and cultural studies, our members include writers and educators who also work in interdisciplinary fields such as ecology, conservation biology, environmental history, environmental philosophy, and environmental law.

For more than twenty years ASLE has supported the intellectual work of its members around the world. The formation of ASLE-Japan in 1994 signaled an international orientation that continues in our many active affiliates in countries around the world today. Our 1450 members from more than 30 countries represent a wide range of institutions, fields, and interests and connect with one another to organize lectures, readings, and conference panels and to collaborate on projects and initiatives. Because ASLE defines the environmental humanities as global in scope, our members are actively facilitating intellectual exchange and collaboration with colleagues and professional organizations around the world.

Since 1993 ASLE’s biennial conference routinely features creative panels and plenary speakers. In fact several of ASLE’s honorary members—including Homero and Betty Aridjis, Wendell Berry, Linda Hogan, Mary Oliver, Ruth Ozeki, Scott Russell Sanders, and Gary Snyder—are creative writers. In addition, we sponsor symposia in our non-conference years, provide member and community grants, and make book and paper awards during biennial conference years. The work of our members is featured in the peer-reviewed academic journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment that we publish quarterly through Oxford University Press. Each issue of ISLE publishes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction alongside scholarly articles. The association’s longstanding commitment to supporting artists and scholars remains one of its greatest strengths.
Today ASLE is a vibrant international community of scholars and teachers working across the humanities and arts, representing a variety of disciplines including literature, history, philosophy, environmental studies, cultural geography, film and media, cultural studies, women and gender studies, religious studies, ethnography, psychology, and anthropology. ASLE members also engage in their local, regional, and international communities through the humanities and collaborate with individuals and institutions through public programming and outreach.

I also wrote the “Welcome” page that includes links to other writing on the site I developed, including the field-defining statements of our members, audio and video member spotlights, and featured course and research spotlights:

The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) offers access to emerging conversations and debates, innovative classroom work, as well as some of the finest environmental writing you will find anywhere. Our association works with professors, practicing writers and artists, environmental educators and activists, and environmentally concerned citizens by

Supporting teaching and learning in the fields of environmental literature, ecocriticism, environmental studies, literature, and science, and broadly in the humanities and the arts

Fostering member collaboration and public dialogue through conferences, networks, publications, and other forums

Generating collaborative research in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and sciences

Promoting equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility on behalf of the membership

Facilitating the public dissemination of member projects and expertise

And maintaining and championing ecologically sustainable and socially just practices

There are many ways to explore what we do. Find inspiration in the field-defining statements of our members. Learn more about our intellectual commitments through our member spotlights. Discover opportunities in our featured course and research spotlights. Seek materials for education and enrichment in our resource pages and archives. Or simply experience the fellowship of people who celebrate the joy, wonder, and gratitude that comes from active engagement with the living world.

Whether you are a college and university professor, a practicing writer or artist, an environmental educator or activist, or an environmentally concerned citizen, I invite you to make ASLE your intellectual home.

Here are links to selected features and news items I wrote during my Presidential year. The first new item, “Report on the 2014 ASLE Officer’s Retreat,” offers a glimpse into the changes in our association that I was charged with overseeing as President:

Report on the 2014 ASLE Officer’s Retreat
A New ASLE Mission and Strategic Plan
ASLE Welcomes New Vice President and Members of the Executive Council
Conference on Ecoethics in India
President’s Update
Ecocriticism Session at the ALA
President’s Update
ASLE Vision and History
A Message from the ASLE President
ASLE Community Grants

In addition to the web site, I worked to promote teaching, program development and scholarship in the environmental humanities—with colleagues in India as well as in the bourgeoning international community working in the field of the environmental humanities. As Vice President and President of ASLE, I worked closely with the Executive Council and Managing Director to further the organization’s strategic priorities, especially our strategic focus on building relationships—with undergraduate and graduate students, allied academic organizations, community groups, and colleagues around the world.

At the 2011 ASLE conference in Bloomington, Indiana, I co-facilitated (with John Tallmadge, Rochelle Johnson, Tom Hillard and Sarah Jaquette Ray) a pre-conference workshop “Staying Alive: A Workshop for Academic Professionals.” ASLE’s tradition of mentoring graduate students and building community has evolved to include the Staying Alive Project, a vision that includes building mentoring relationships with one another across all phases and dimensions of academic life. During the conference, as the coordinator of the ASLE Mentoring Program, I also organized mentoring meetings between graduate students and faculty members outside their home departments; and talked with other members of the organization about ways to promote international scholarly exchanges in the field of literature and environment. I also presented “Frames of Rejection: Frames of Acceptance: Environmentalism in the Classroom” on the panel “Green Without Guilt: Pedagogy and Scholarship for Teaching Environmentalism in the Disciplines.” In this presentation I talked about my upper-level undergraduate elective designed to help students understand the social movement we call environmentalism, as well as explore the ways environmental concern shapes the development of a genre of writing.

In June of 2013 I attended the biennial conference at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. As vice president, and a voting member of the executive council, I attended an all day executive council planning retreat; I led the ASLE business meeting for members of the organization; and I met with program coordinators throughout the week. There were over 700 attendees at the conference, with 285 participants from outside the United States from 32 countries. At the reception for international members and graduate students at the 2013 gathering at University of Kansas, I was recognized with the first ASLE award for Excellence in Mentoring.

In March 2014 I hosted (with our Managing Director, Amy McIntyrre) fourteen members of our association at the ASLE Officer’s Retreat at Glenn Brook Farm in Marlborough, New Hampshire. (See the news item above, “Report on the 2014 ASLE Officer’s Retreat.”)

In October of 2014 I was invited to be the chief guest and to present the Keynote Address, “The Ecological Arts: Humanities, Technology, Science,” at the International Conference on Ecocultural Ethics: Recent Trends and Future Directions, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, K.K. Birla Goa Campus, Goa, India. And I served on the 2013 ASLE Ecocriticism Award Committee. I read selected books in the bourgeoning field and joined two other colleagues in choosing Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard 2012).

These are some of the intellectual activities that have shaped my teaching in English, American, and Environmental Studies at Keene State College.

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