I’m back at the College after our six month sabbatical in India, teaching three courses this semester, and already thinking about book orders for the spring. I’m teaching a section of Thinking and Writing entitled What is Nature? that explores the concept of nature. I’ve asked students to consider how definitions of nature reflect human values and beliefs, and to reflect on how these definitions organize our understanding of ourselves and our responsibilities in the world. Students have read the essays in Nadia Tazi, Keywords: Nature and Noel Castree, Nature (Key Ideas in Geography). We are also discussing parts of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, the Keene is reading Program text for the 2008-09 academic year.
I’m also teaching a section of the first course in the English department’s introductory sequence, Literary Analysis. This course invites students to read and discuss imaginative literature; become familiar with key terms, concepts, critical problems, and theoretical debates in English studies; and develop the habits of mind and skills to effectively analyze texts through the process of writing. Students also practice protocols for writing with sources, in-text citation and compiling a list of works cited. This semester I’m using Scholes Comley and Ulmer’s Text Book and we are reading Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts. I’ve also added readings from Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction.
Finally, twice each week at eight in the morning, I am teaching an interdisciplinary course, Environmental Literature, that traces the emergence of environmentalism as a social movement in relation to the rise of environmental literature as a genre. Students are considering the claims of the environmental movement in the United States from the second half of the twentieth century to the present; examining the development of the fictional and nonfiction conventions of environmental writing; thinking through the relationship between literature and social change; and considering commentaries on the environmental movement in the United States by cultural critics and environmental historians in developing countries. We are reading Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962); Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968); Gary Snyder, Turtle Island (1969); Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America (1977); Barry Lopez, The Rediscovery of North America (1990); Michael Pollan, Second Nature (1991); and Linda Hogan, Solar Storms (1995). My students are writing a lot and I, in turn, am reading a lot of student writing. A hard job of work. Satisfying, too.