Category Archives: Environmental Humanities

Intercultural Competence and Sustainability


In this reflective essay I am going to elaborate some of my thinking about teaching and learning at the convergence of intercultural competence and sustainability.

My approach to the College-Wide Learning Outcomes (CWLOs) is perhaps best defined as an orientation. This orientation is grounded in my interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary practice in the classroom. Most recently, in the spring of 2020, I co-taught Sustainable Wildlife Management with Scott Semmens, an educator, skilled wildlife tracker, and adjunct faculty member in Environmental Studies.

In a blog post about the class, I described how we designed the course using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals allowed us to enact convergences between two of Keene State’s college-wide learning outcomes: Intercultural Competence and Sustainability.

The SDGs offered us a framework for engaging students with intercultural competence and sustainability—that is, working with others around the world who are working to end poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and protect the planet. We were planning to travel with the students to the terai arc, the lowlands of Nepal, after all, to work with local communities and the Nepal Tiger Trust tracking tigers in the buffer zones around Chitwan National Park. Our goals for the students, to call on the language of the CWLOs, was to reflect “critically on their own culture and on the intersectionality of culture and social location” and to demonstrate “knowledge of a diversity of cultures,” and to explore “their place in interconnected natural and human systems” and evaluate “the personal, social, and environmental impacts of their choices.”

One of the ways we worked toward these goals was through a collaborative writing project. At the time, I was enrolled in a course hosted jointly by Keene State and Wiki Education. The project began with students enrolling in a Wikipedia community dedicated to contributing content to the encyclopedia and collaborating with others dedicated to improving the online information. Scott and I decided that we would focus student work on WikiProject Nepal and Wikipedia’s coverage of Nepal related topics. This work would involve students with Wikipedians in Nepal as well as around the world.


This year, I continued to work at the convergence of Intercultural Competence and Sustainability. But the convergence of Intercultural Competence and Sustainability, I began to realize, had deeper roots. As I prepared to teach my cross-listed class in English and Environmental Studies, Writing in an Endangered World, I found myself thinking about what I had learned during a 2008 sabbatical in India––from undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty colleagues at colleges and universities––about the distinctive ecological history of the subcontinent.

Years earlier, during my junior year at Ithaca College, I had researched and wrote a family history of my Norwegian ancestors in an ethnic history course that introduced me to the field of environmental history. This experience then led me to design an independent study on environmental history with a historian at the college. The reading list I compiled included Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (1967), Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (1977), William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (1983), among other works.

What has stayed with me, though, was an essay on my reading list by the Indian historian Ramanchandra Guha that had recently been published in the journal Environmental Ethics, “Radical American Environmentalism: a Third World Critique.” Guha’s argument proved to be another formative moment in my intellectual development. Guha unsettled my ethnocentric perspective on environmental ideas in North America. In fact, when students become interested in the complexities of this comparative history of ideas I recommend Guha’s essay––as well as his thinking in the collection How Much Should a Person Consume? Environmentalism in India and the United States (2006).

During our stay in India, in 2008–09, I was invited to lecture to students studying English Literature as well as Zoology. When I returned to India to present a keynote address at an international conference in 2015, I was also invited to sit on a panel that included a fisheries biologist, a solid-waste engineer, and a community activist. Once again, I was coming back to Guha’s insight that environmentalism in many countries outside of the United States was principally a question of social justice.

This dimension of environmentalism was underscored for me as the chair of a book awards committee, too. One of the books we considered was written by Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011). The book brought together thinking in environmental and postcolonial studies. His phrase “slow violence” described environmental problems, especially those that had disproportionately harmed the poor, reinforced what I had learned from Guha and others. At the award ceremony for Rob, at our biennial conference at the University of Kansas, I remember him describing his indebtedness to one of his mentors, Edward Said, who demonstrated for him what the humanities are, and who helped him to see his work as a portal that might help to break with the past and imagine the world anew.

A Reunion with Indian scholar and ecocritic Dr. Nirmal Selvamony, Worcester, Massachusetts, summer 2016

Reading Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor reinforced my conviction that students deserved to understand the culturally specific ways environmental writing and environmentalism developed in the United States during the twentieth century. This understanding would be informed by my own reading of Juan Martínez Alier’s 2005 The Environmentalism of the Poor: A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation as well. For Alier and Guha make available the strengths as well as the limitations of the distinction between the anthropocentric and biocentric that determine the thinking of deep ecologists and environmental activists, and that constituted the ways many of them thought about the human and more-than-human world. The argument is that the discourse of North American environmentalism that grew out of the conservation movement was not especially useful in forming an understanding of the social dynamics of ecological degradation—whether in the US or in other countries.

In Writing in an Endangered World, when we are talking our way through Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, I mention Rob Nixon’s book and point out that he discusses Carson and Guha. We also draw on the terms and concepts in this body of intellectual work: “the environmentalism of the poor,” “ecosystem people,” “omnivores,” and “socioenvironmentalism, all terms in the multi-disciplinary thinking of Guha and his collaborators in the fields of sociology, comparative environmental history, and ecology. At the same time, Nixon points to Carson as a writer, reminding his readers that her contributions to public discourse “helped hasten the shift from a conservationist ideology to the more socioenvironmental outlook that has proven so enabling for environmental justice movements” (xi). As I explain to my students, this comment resonates for me. For when I was invited by a well-known ornithologist to speak about Rachel Carson in a community event in Pune, India, it seemed everyone in the packed auditorium had read Silent Spring.


For a Teaching Fellows project this spring once again I turned to the UN Sustainability Goals. For over a decade, I have been teaching Writing in an Endangered World, a cross-listed course I designed to bring together students in the sciences and the humanities. A survey of environmental writing focused on the relationship of literature to the social movement of environmentalism in the United States since 1960, the course is a useful learning experience for college students in the sciences—whose studies tend to focus less on history, representation, and culture—and for students in the humanities—who, while familiar with the study of the meaning and value of human experience, have fewer opportunities to engage with scientific writing and ecological thinking.

One of the primary learning goals in this class is for students to use the factual, policy, and value claims of environmentalism as a framework for considering how writers (and writer-activists) foster reflection and transformation of personal (and social) assumptions, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. The writers we study in the post-war period are grappling with the audacity of human ignorance and indifference—to the slow violence of environmental catastrophe. The questions these writers raise include the fact that the the world to which we belong doesn’t come with disciplinary boundaries—and, in fact, academic disciplines, as currently constituted, may be limited in their efficacy to resolve the social and environmental problems facing us as we move deeper into the twenty-first century. What “discipline,” after all, can address the interrelated problems and urgencies of environmental degradation, inequality, and equity?

The pedagogical challenge of teaching at the convergence of Intercultural Competence and Sustainability runs squarely into this problem. For many students have determined that their gifts and aptitudes, their understanding of themselves and the world, are to be explored in disciplinary contexts that, I am convinced, constrain creative and critical explorations in other domains of knowledge and ways of knowing. The convergence of Intercultural Competence and Sustainability, using the UN Sustainability Goals, then, unsettles students as they encounter and struggle with the literary and cultural inheritance of environmental thinking. They are unsettled, in the best way, by the recognition that environmental literacy, indigenous ways of knowing, as well as ecological and/or systems thinking, are not disciplinary in nature. Hence while specialized knowledge is necessary, it can also be the problem, as students learn, in reading Rachel Carson in the 1960s and 1970s, Wendell Berry in the 1970s, or Barry Lopez and Gary Snyder in the 1990s.

At the same time, the comparative cultural framework and perspective provided by Guha in Environmentalism: A Global History (2000) connects a concern with the well-being of humanity to the future of the planet. The concept of interconnectedness, students learn, is an invitation to ground our ways of thinking in the past and current asymmetries in the relationship between the Global North and the Global South, as well as the necessary and ongoing work of considering both the history and present state of the biosphere and ethnosphere.


The UN Sustainable Development goals give me a pedagogical framework for engaging students at the convergence of intercultural competence and sustainability. What I can now see is that the learning objectives of the SDGs align with our college-wide sustainability outcome.

Keene State College students will explore their place in interconnected natural and human systems; evaluate the personal, social, and environmental impacts of their choices; and apply their knowledge and skills for building a just, resilient, and thriving world. (my emphasis)

Three professors—trained in English, education, and geography/environmental studies—along with the group of dedicated students and faculty who then then shaped the final version of the sustainability outcome—came up with this language that moves in a more holistic (college-wide) domain—importantly, both within and beyond disciplines, schools, and the academic program.

Using the CWLOs more explicitly, and thinking about the necessary and urgent work of college-wide teaching and learning, has helped me to enact the SDG learning objectives described in cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioral domains. In their words,

The cognitive domain comprises knowledge and thinking skills necessary to better understand the SDG and the challenges in achieving it. The socio-emotional domain includes social skills that enable learners to collaborate, negotiate and communicate to promote the SDGs as well as self-reflection skills, values, attitudes and motivations that enable learners to develop themselves. The behavioral domain describes action competencies.

The SDGs have helped to make the CWLOs more tangible, and more accessible for students as they read, think, and write with the literary contributions of minds less fettered by ever-more specialized knowledge that, while valuable and necessary, can limit how we might think about the inequalities both within and among countries around the world. The books, essays, and poems we read in my class, in fact, to quote from the SDGs, are all uncommonly dedicated to what the writer Wendell Berry calls “the practical intricacies of collaboration.” Such collaborations take place in the work to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss” and at the same time to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

But to do this work requires us to do more, as Berry suggests in his 1977 book of essays that we read in the course, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. “The good of the whole of Creation, the world and all its creatures together,” Berry writes, “is never a consideration because it is never thought of; our culture now simply lacks the means for thinking it” (22). The SDGs provide one means for thinking holistically (and ecologically):

No Poverty. Zero Hunger. Good Health and Well-Being. Quality Education. Gender Equality. Clean Water and Sanitation. Affordable and Clean Energy. Decent Work and Economic Growth. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Reduced Inequalities. Sustainable Cities and Communities. Responsible Consumption and Production. Climate Action. Life below Water. Life on Land. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Might these SDGs provide a holistic framework for teaching and learning in the twenty-first century—a way to work together at the convergence of Intercultural Competence and Sustainability?

Sustainable Wildlife Management

In the spring of 2020 I had the privilege of co-teaching with Scott Semmens, a master wildlife tracker and adjunct faculty member in Environmental Studies, a course in Sustainable Wildlife Management. The wildlife conservation course was designed to include outings tracking mammals in NH and a post-semester trip with the students to Nepal. Before the spring break, and the onset of the global pandemic, we met twice each week. Following the spring break we met with students on Zoom once each week. Due to COVID, the field experiences were cancelled.

The course covers principles of wildlife conservation and management, stressing the application of ecological principles to achieve wildlife management objectives, and intensive preparation for two-weeks of field work in the Terai Arc lowland region of Nepal in May. The essential questions of the course included: How do species’ morphology, physiology, and behavioral changes in response to the changing seasons and evolving ecosystems? How should local species be managed? In what ways do you think our views on the natural world should change? Topics included conservation, management, and restoration of wildlife habitats; wildlife population assessment and management; human dimensions and human-wildlife interactions; management of wildlife in agricultural, range, and forested ecosystems; and wildlife policy at the local, state, national, and international level.

Landing page of the course web site I built for the course

We covered hands-on techniques for developing naturalist skills, reflective activities designed to understand the destruction of habitats, the extinction of species and the advent of climate change that requires that a reassessment of our interaction to the ecosystems that sustains all living things, and cultivating ways of expressing thoughts about our changing relationship with the natural world. Students worked in groups to develop core skill sets needed during the stay in Nepal, including, camera traps, animal tracks, signs, and trails, photography, bird identification, and the use of GIS technology. 

My contributions to the course began with a summer planning session with Scott. We developed the proposal and responded to the campus global education committee’s questions and feedback. I later attended a GEO workshop for faculty teaching field-based trips, and worked with Scott to blend our experiences and skills as outdoor educators.

The students conducted research and reflection for the first project in this course, a longer essay, “Developing a Frame of Mind,” designed to promote thinking about what it might mean to cultivate a sense of place—to express thoughts and reflections about our changing relationship with the natural world—and to consider how cultural attitudes and beliefs inform a sense of the common good.

The second project I developed for the course was inspired by a class I was taking concurrently, #Envision2030, a Wiki Scholars course hosted jointly by Keene State and Wiki Education. I guided each of the students in Sustainable Wildlife Management to become a member of a Wikipedia community dedicated to contributing content to the encyclopedia Wikipedia and collaborating with others who have chosen to volunteer their time and hard work to improving the online information. I focused the student work on contributing to WikiProject Nepal and Wikipedia’s coverage of Nepal related topics.

The students 1) worked in groups to learn more about the natural and cultural history of Nepal and 2) shared some of what they learned as a member of a global community of people who volunteer their time and hard work to provide one of the world’s most valuable digital resources. The wiki work was inspired by the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Goals , also known as the Global Goals, a shared agenda to end poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and protect the planet. The seventeen SDGs provided a framework for acting on our individual commitments to sustainability by engaging with others around the world who are working to end poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and protect the planet.

Sustainable Development Goals

Our Sustainable Wildlife Management WikiEdu Course Page on WikiEdu allowed students to complete Wikiedu course modules and to learn to identify content gaps in existing articles, create new articles, and edit extant Wikipedia pages. The students set up sandboxes for writing, revising, editing.

The course was an experience that models the kinds of intellectual exchange we might do more of at the College. To this end, I met with the dean of the school of Sustainability, Sciences and Health to talk about how we might create more opportunities like this to work across disciplinary and school lines. I was able to bring in materials that enhanced the science-based curriculum and the ecological and anthropological expertise of my co-instructor in turn shaped the student’s experiences with reading and writing in the course. Reading the writings and viewing lectures and podcasts by the anthropologist Wade Davis, the ethologist Marc Bekoff, the literary and cultural historian Robert McFarlane, and the conservation biologist Jane Goodall, offered the students a remarkable experience—even though we were unable, due to the global pandemic, to travel together to work with the Nepal-based conservation organization, the Tiger Trust, and to help the people of Mughali develop naturalist curriculum in their schools. 

I set up a domain and a course site, Sustainable Wildlife Management in Nepal, although we did not develop it due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott and I hope to be able to offer the course when the global pandemic subsides.

In Memory

(Published on the web site of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment,) In Memoriam: Mary Oliver, 1935–2019

By Mark C. Long, Keene State College

The poet Mary Oliver passed away on January 17, 2019. An honorary member of our association, Oliver published over thirty books of poetry and prose that brought the concerns of ASLE to more readers than any other poet of her generation.

Oliver published her first book, No Voyage and Other Poems, in 1963. Over the next fifty years, Oliver offered us new ways to think about the gift of human life and the fragile beauty of the more-than-human world. As the poems kept coming, Oliver rekindled the uses of poetry in our culture—in lyrics, sequences, a book-length poem, prose poems, and essays. And her audience kept expanding, too, her book sales, running into the millions, reminding us of the singular power of her distinctive voice.

Oliver’s life and work are at once inspiration and provocation—most acutely to those of us preoccupied with environmental concern, equity, and justice. How does our thinking and writing, our art and our activism, reach the audiences who most need us? How do we live convincing lives for those who need to be inspired? “Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do,” Oliver reminded us. “Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.”

Although Oliver once stood in that water, and found her way upstream, her generous provocations are for us—whether we find ourselves in a stream or on a city sidewalk. Her belief that we can learn to love the world came from Walt Whitman, she told us, for his “message was clear from the first and never changed: that a better, richer life is available to us, and with all his force he advocated it both for the good of each individual soul and for the good of the universe.”

This potential for goodness in a world that appears otherwise is the heartbeat of Oliver’s advocacy. It is no wonder, then, that Oliver’s poems come into our lives across experiences, generations, and occasions—as children, adolescents, young adults, middle-age and older adults, in schools and libraries, family and community gatherings, and places of worship.

She prodded us to be in the world—with awareness, imagination, compassion, and agency. She excited our consciences and awakened our emotions. And she offered those of us more familiar with thinking about poems something less familiar: an invitation to think with poems that wrestle with our commonplaces about the world, honestly and openly, to guide us into the material and spiritual condition of our lives.

“Here is a story / to break your heart. / Are you willing? With these lines Oliver begins the poem “Lead,” a story of loons dying in the harbor “of nothing we could see,” a poem that ends with the story she has been sharing with us for over fifty years:

I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.


An informal gathering to honor the literary and cultural contributions of the poet Mary Oliver will be held from 12:15-1:15 pm on June 28, 2019 during the 2019 ASLE Conference. The reading will take place in the T. Elliot Weier Redwood Grove located in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. Participants are invited to read one of Oliver’s poems, or a selection from her prose. Brief comments on Oliver’s work are also welcome. If you plan to attend this event, please RSVP Mark C. Long at

Open Education and ASLE

The things which are dear to men at this hour are so on account of the ideas which have emerged on their mental horizon, and which cause the present order of things as a tree bears its apples. A new degree of culture would instantly revolutionize the entire system of human pursuits.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

In 2013 and 2014 the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) dedicated energy and resources to building a new web site as part of a renewed focus on the digital strategy of the association. We worked from the visionary digital work of Dan Phillipon and built a new web site as part of a more comprehensive digital strategy for the association.

The web site of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) in 1999

Earlier that year, in my role as president of ASLE, I collaborated with the managing director of our association, Amy McIntryre, on a comprehensive review of our strategic plan. The 2014 Strategic Plan mapped out our continued work as an open and engaged community of scholars in a new mission statement for our association: “The mission of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) is to inspire and promote the work of scholars, educators, students, and writers in the environmental humanities and arts.” Among the revised goals we included outreach through member collaboration and public dialogue; the promotion of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility; and facilitating the public dissemination of member projects and expertise.

After two years of work I announced in my President’s column the launching of our site and outlined some of the opportunities the new web site would present the members of our association:

President’s Update

In addition to launching the new web site we established a digital strategies committee to guide ASLE’s efforts to facilitate the public dissemination of member projects and expertise. More recently, as a continuing member of the ASLE digital strategies committee, I proposed a working group to explore the possibilities of open education and pedagogy in our ASLE community.

The home page of the ASLE web site in 2018

The transformative possibilities of open pedagogy, learning, and resources offer a productive provocation to the members of ASLE as the landscape of higher education continues to change. As public support for higher education continues to ebb we should be reexamining all that we do in our various roles on college and university campuses, in our secondary school classrooms, and our communities of practice. We need to take our advocacy talk for a walk.

One way to do this is to explore open education and pedagogy in our ASLE community. For those less familiar with the emergence of open there are useful definitions in circulation. Open Educational Resources (OERs) are materials shared in the public domain under an intellectual property license that allows their free use and re-purposing by others. These educational resources might include individual and collaborative research, course materials and/or modules, textbooks, videos and media projects, to name a few.

Open pedagogy may align especially well with the mission and values of ASLE. At the same time the values and practices of of open pedagogy-with roots in feminist and critical pedagogies-offer a productive provocation for members of our association whose intellectual work is channeled through narrower disciplinary conversations and artifacts such as monographs that create a buzz but most often in more isolated intellectual hives.

So what might be the connections between academic institutions, open pedagogy and learning, and environmental advocacy? Here are the guiding questions I drafted for the workgroup:

How might members of the Association use open education to move our teaching and research activities into communities outside the academy?

How might ASLE offer undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to create and access OERs as well as promote student agency in intellectual communities within and beyond their home institutions?

How might OERs create new partnerships with nonacademic stakeholders as we continue to work on common challenges and projects in the environmental arts and humanities?

In their recent Message from the Co-Presidents, ASLE members Stacy Alaimo and Jeffrey J. Cohen frame environmental humanism as environmental activism. “We study, write, compose and create because we care about issues like biodiversity, environmental justice, survival in a time of endemic precarity and global catastrophe, and the effects of climate change on humans and nonhumans alike,” they write. Wicked problems such as these do not have easy solutions, of course, though they “have faith that widened community is our best way forward.” This is useful language, I believe, to guide us in where the extraordinary labor of the environmental humanities. But how do we widen the community? How do we work to unsettle the personal and disciplinary and institutional disincentives to intellectual work that widen the community?

For the past two days I have been at the University of New Hampshire at the annual Academic Technology Institute. During the gathering my friend, biology colleague, and collaborator Karen Cangialosi presented a keynote talk on open education and advocacy.

One of Karen’s central claims was that access and agency should be at the core of our work with our students and that the open education movement should refocus academic work on the commons. In the illustration above, Karen emphasizes student agency through course design, knowledge creation, and connected learning, as well as connected learning, community participation, and inclusivity.

The use of Open Educational Resources (OER)—and the practices of Open Pedagogy—connects academic labor to the wider public and in turn improves access to education. Teaching and learning in the open is about connecting students to a larger world and to making the process of education more transparent and accessible. With roots in critical pedagogy, open pedagogy values students constructing their own learning process; and, as another colleague writes, practitioners of open pedagogy seek to empower students “while actively critiquing and confronting the industrial and corporate approach of co-opting and packaging ‘teaching technology’ to turn students into consumers.” Instead, teachers and students build ways to leverage the Open web for discovery, creativity and analysis, as well as dialogue with the wider public.

Karen’s advocacy work is part of an ecology of open pedagogy that is to my mind one of the ways ASLE can expand its circle. What are the opportunities for members of ASLE to further its commitments to sharing and contributing knowledge, the public humanities, service learning projects, creating and displaying public art, and engaging our students with local environmental problems? The first answer to that question is gathering the ongoing work that exemplifies the activities already unfolding in what I might call here the ASLE ecology of open.

Open education takes many forms. Below are a few examples of work already happening in ASLE that I hope will expand the scope of our charts: creating OERs; building project sites for education, research, and public engagement; creating course sites on the open web to promote digital identity, fluency, and citizenship.

Creating OERs This can be on OER Commons  or OpenStax, by using an open-source publishing platform like Press Books, or engaging with the Rebus Community whose members believe that educational materials for every subject should be a free and open public resource. One example of this kind of work is a resource that my colleague at Plymouth State University created (with her students) The Open Anthology of Early American Literature

 Building Project Sites

Ecoarttech is a faculty project site by ASLE members Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint

Play the LA River is a project and collaboration that includes ASLE Member Alison Caruth

The Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies is a project at UCLA

Dawnland Voices features indigenous writing from New England and the Northeast and is edited and curated by ASLE Member Siobhan Senier

Digital Thoreau English professor Paul Schatz’s project at SUNY Geneseo

The Disability History Museum My colleague in the department of history at Keene State College is responsible for developing education curricula and has developed materials with undergraduate students

NICHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment / Nouvelle initiative canadienne en histoire de l’environnement is a Canadian-based confederation of researchers and educators who work at the intersection of nature and history. We explore the historical context of environmental matters and communicate our findings to researchers, policymakers, and the public.

Sustainable Play Brad Rassler’s project for long-form storytelling at the confluence of people, planet, and play.

Petrofictionary is a mode of archiving words and concepts that assist in the study of petrofiction: literary figurations of petroleum, the most important energy source of the twentieth and (so far) twenty-first centuries. The Petrofictionary was created as a collaborative project by the students in English 7087: Petrofictions, at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and edited by Amy Donovan under the guidance of Dr. Fiona Polack. It is intended as an archive, a tool, and a source of both information and inspiration as we consider the wide-reaching implications of petroleum culture and speculate about new modes of human existence after oil.

Domain of One’s Own projects have taken hold at many colleges and universities. The project, to take one example, emphasizes digital identity, digital fluency and digital citizenship. Some examples of course and project sites at, including advocacy sites such as NH Science for Citizens, student project sites such as my Far Field Learning Lab

Course Sites

The Open Space of Democracy is an open learning site (as opposed to a course built in a learning management system like Canvas).

Writing in an Endangered World  is a course in which student blogs are syndicated to the main site. All of the student writing appears on the course site as well as the individual student sites. The student blogs and the course Project blogs/web sites are listed in the post It’s a Wrap.  For example, one student created the Nature In A Quarter Hour Podcast offers a series of reflections (and an interview) based in the field of environmentalism and it’s literary contributions

COPLAC Digital team-taught Distance Learning Seminars with students from more than one institution. For example, I team-taught a course Public Access and the Liberal Arts with a faculty member at Truman State University with students from multiple campuses

Selected Definitions and Resources Karen Cangialosi, has compiled an excellent Open Pedagogy Learning Community Resource List. And most colleges and universities (most often library-based resources) have FAQs about Open Educational Resources (OER). At Keene State College, for example, we have an Open Educational Resources page. The Open Educational Resources page on the Keene State College web site has a useful list of links More About OER.

Open Education Consortium A worldwide community of hundreds of higher education institutions and associated organizations committed to advancing open education.

SPARC: Open Education SPARC believes that Open Educational Resources (OER) maximize the power of the Internet to improve teaching and learning, and increase access to education.

Creative Commons: Education The Education program at Creative Commons works to maximize the benefits of open educational resources (OER) and the return on investment in publicly funded education and research programs.

The Academic Commons Provides serves as a platform/tool that institutions and organizations can use to share their own and learn from each other’s work in an open, collaborative way.”

OER Mythbusting Myths about OER can stop people from using them and causing real educational change. The goal of this publication is to dispel those myths.

Once again, the question of the opportunities: where do we go from here? I will report back with any news as the work of the digital strategies committee takes shape in what I hope will be student and faculty collaborations within, across, and outside our courses, colleges and universities, and communities.

The Magic of Monadnock

马克·龙(Mark Long) is going to China.

With an invitation in hand to be part of an American delegation to the “Poetry Bridges Continents: China and American Pastoral Poetry Symposium” to be held on November 11-16, 2018 at Yancheng Teachers University, Yancheng, Jiangsu, China, some of my summer work will include my contribution to the symposium.

The symposium will present academic panels, keynote speeches, and bilingual poetry readings. The delegation, while visiting, will give readings and lectures, and meet with faculty and students. Additionally, to strengthen our East-West connections, at a special ceremony during the symposium, the YCTU library and Mason library of Keene State College will exchange special collections. We will set up a Mondanock-region poetry collection at the host Chinese university that would a sister collection to ours at Keene State College, and we will solicit from poets represented in our collections to donate volumes towards the sister collection.

The Yancheng symposium is part of a cultural exchange that began this past fall at Keene State College with the colloquium, “The Magic of Monadnock:  Poetry Bridging Continents.” We hosted poets from China and poets from the Monadock region to explore the geographies of the Monadnock region in New Hampshire and the Maoshan in the southwestern Jiangsu province. The four-day international gathering brought Chinese and American poets to Keene State College for a cultural exchange open to and involving students, faculty, and the larger community.The Mason Library’s Monadnock Poetry Special Collections, The Redfern Arts Center, The Thorne Art Gallery, and the Division Arts and Humanities were co-sponsors of the event. The week celebrated the pastoral in all its possibilities, with performances, readings, collaborations, discussions, including a field hike to Thoreau’s Seat on the slopes of Mt. Monadnock.

Roger Martin reading a poem by Henry David Thoreau at Thoreau’s Seat on the slopes of Mt Monadnock

I am grateful to the poet and professor Rodger Martin and professor and College archivist Rodney Obien for including me in this project.

Lunch-at-Halfway-House Hotel foundation: Henry Walters, Zichuan, Mark-long, Brittany-ONeal, Linda Warren, Rodney Obien, Rodger, Martin (photo by Chen Yihai)

Henry Walters, Rodger Martin, Mark Long, Brittany O’Neal, and Zichuan at Thoreau’s Seat, Mt. Monadnock

One of the events at “The Magic of Monadnock: Poetry Bridging Continents” was honoring Professor Emeritus William Doreski with the re-naming of the Doreski Archive in Modern Poetry at Mason Library. To commemorate the occasion, Chinese poet and scholar Zi Chuan, presented him with Chuan’s original calligraphy of a poem dedicated to Dr. Doreski.

Within the Circuit of this Plodding Life

Within the circuit of this plodding life,
There enter moments of an azure hue,
Untarnished fair as is the violet
Or anemone, when the spring strews them
By some meandering rivulet, which make
The best philosophy untrue that aims
But to console man for his grievances.
I have remembered when the winter came,
High in my chamber in the frosty nights,
When in the still light of the cheerful moon,
On every twig and rail and jutting spout,
The icy spears were adding to their length
Against the arrows of the coming sun,
How in the shimmering noon of summer past
Some unrecorded beam slanted across
The upland pastures where the Johnswort grew;
Or heard, amid the verdure of my mind,
The bee’s long smothered hum, on the blue flag
Loitering amidst the mead; or busy rill,
Which now through all its course stands still and dumb
Its own memorial,—purling at its play
Along the slopes, and through the meadows next,
Until its youthful sound was hushed at last
In the staid current of the lowland stream;
Or seen the furrows shine but late upturned,
And where the fieldfare followed in the rear,
When all the fields around lay bound and hoar
Beneath a thick integument of snow.
So by God’s cheap economy made rich
To go upon my winter’s task again.

-Henry David Thoreau, from The Natural History of Massachusetts (1842)

Featured Image, Broad-Distance Pavillion, From Illustrations To The Poems Of Huang Yan-Lü (1701–02), By Shih T’ao, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Natural and Cultural History of Soil

Soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it, we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.

-Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977)

My collaboration with Amanda Littleton and the Cheshire County Conservation District began with a question: how does the mission of a conservation district—to improve management practices that improve soil health while increasing the viability of a farm and to educate the general public that healthy soil is the foundation for a healthy food system—connect to ideas about the natural world, public interest in working landscapes, and the cultural narratives and ideas that shape our understanding of the land?

The series of events we organized successfully answered the question through community engagement with the complex relationship between natural and cultural history. A distinctive strength of this project, from a public humanities perspective, was the diversity of people who participated in the events. “The Natural and Cultural History of Soil: Cultivating Fertile Soil, Generating Resilient Communities” put books into the hands of farmers working the land, local residents working in environmental education, interested members of the community, educators, and students. In addition, our decision to make available more than one book—Dr. David Montgomery’s nonfiction “trilogy,” Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations (2007), The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health, with Anne Bilké (2016), and Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life (2017)—broadened our audience and enriched our discussions.

The film screening and panel discussion, and the dialogues I facilitated at each of these events, were productive dialogues about the complex relationship between agricultural practices, ecological literacy, and human values. It was especially rewarding to help shape a community inquiry into the basic humanistic and ecological questions I explore with my undergraduate students every semester: Who am I? Where am I? What is going on? Our two evening conversations were characterized by frustration about the scope of the problems we face; the daunting complexity of the choices, responsibilities, and values available to us; the empowering ideas of writers and thinkers whose ideas we can think with as we wrestle with complex questions; and the existing and emerging local solutions that promote not only more sustainable agriculture and economies but also a more rewarding and meaningful life.

Our panel discussion provided insights of a conservation professional, two working farmers, and an educator: Steve Pytlik, a District Conservationist working for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Walpole, NH; professor Tatiana Schreiber, who has advanced degrees in Rural Sociology and Nutrition, Mass Communications, and Environmental Studies; and Frank Hunter, who majored in Environmental Studies at Prescott College in AZ, and Kim Peavey, who studied literature and theology as a graduate student and has published over thirty articles on sustainable farming, parenting, and spirituality, who have together been raising vegetables with the help of their draft horses for over seventeen years. Following comments about the books, I facilitated a discussion using passages from the books selected by the panelists.

Introducing David Montgomery in Alumni Hall at Keene State College

In early November, following the film screening and the book discussion in October, the author Dr. Montgomery presented to a packed room at the NH Conservation District Annual Meeting. The following day I had the honor of introducing Dr. Montgomery to the students, faculty, and staff of Keene State College for a talk that concluded the series. In my introduction, I shared my thoughts on Dr. Montgomery’s place among scientists who have dedicated themselves to connecting different areas of scientific inquiry, developing a vocabulary to express what science tells us, and telling a story that can help us change the way we see ourselves and our world—including Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson, Sandra Steinbgraber, and Mark Bekoff. Each of these writers, I explained, is aware that the real, material ecological crisis we face is also a cultural crisis, a crisis of representation. That is to say, I concluded, the inability of political cultures to address the environmental predicaments of our time is in part a failure of narrative.

The environmental humanities begins in this idea: that we need better stories that connect us to one another and to the more-than-human world we share. Dr. Montgomery’s award-winning popular-science books, offered readers an accessible story about natural and cultural history—a chronicle that invited participants to change how they think about themselves and the world.

The overarching questions we were asking included the following:

  • How do historical examples of specific agricultural practices and their effects on the soil inform our current use and value of the soil?
  • What do our current agricultural practices of agriculture say about us both individually and collectively?
  • How do we think about soil in historical, political, historical, sociological, economic, technological, even moral terms?
  • How do we understand the social needs and demands of our local agricultural economy, the natural constraints of ecology and the political imperatives of democracy?
  • And how do we reconcile agricultural practices, community health and resiliency, food health and security, with our insatiable consumer economy?

It was delightful to have David with us here at Keene State College and to work with Amanda Littleton to share his writing and presence with members of the Monadnock region. The adventure in the public humanities brought together farmers, members of the community, and students to think together about the world in which we live. We also developed a reading list, The Literature of Dirt, that includes other resources for a season of reading and thinking about the source and destination of all.

As a professor who has worked with the New Hampshire Humanities Council since 1998, and who has facilitated dozens of book discussions at libraries around the state, I am grateful for the support of this project. My hope is that the Humanities Council will use this successful dialogue to expand the reach of the humanities through comparable collaborations with other organizations and institutions. These kinds of partnerships begin in questions about how to create dialogues across the communities that define us. We need these questions, as well as the answers they might lead us to consider.

featured image by Gabriel Jimenez

The Literature of Dirt: A Reading List

Franklin Hiram King, Farmers of Forty Centuries; or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan (1911)

In the early 1900s Franklin Hiram King of the U.S. Department of Agriculture shares how farmers in China, Korea, and Japan cultivated land and maintained soil fertility for more than four thousand years

Rachel Carson, “Realms of the Soil,” chapter 5 of Silent Spring (1962)

Carson’s chapter on the ecology of soil documents the environmental effects of broad-spectrum pesticides

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution (1975)

A practical and philosophical manifesto about no-till agriculture, farming, eating, and the limits of human knowledge

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977)

Essays on the practices and assumptions of modern agriculture and an extended argument about modern life and its loss of community, devaluation of work, and destruction of nature

William Bryant Logan, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth (1995)

A literary and cultural reflection on dirt—the “ecstatic skin of the earth”—and that inspired the 2009 American documentary film directed by filmmakers Gene Rosow and Bill Benenson

David Montgomery, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations (2007)

A history of the problems of soil degradation and erosion from the beginnings of human agriculture to the present

Eric C. Brevic and Lynn C. Burgess, eds, Soils and Human Health (2012)

Essays that introduce readers to human health covering the influence of soil conservation and contact with soil on human health

Judith D. Schwartz, Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth (2013)

Environmental journalism that links soil restoration to environmental, economic, and social problems, from climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss to rural poverty, and malnutrition

Courtney White, Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country  (2014)

A chronicle of practices that capture carbon in the soil that links our treatment of the soil with the future of the planet

Kristin Ohlson, The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet  (2014)

An exploration of soil through stories of scientists and farmers and others of the dynamics of the natural world to adress environmental crisis

Barbara Richardson, editor.  Dirt:  A Love Story (2015)

Thirty-six short nonfiction essays (2015) on the beauty and mystery of dirt

David Montgomery, Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life (2017)

A geomorphologist tells the story of an emerging transformation of agricultural practices that begins with the soil and soil fertility—a revolution in philosophy and practice

Paul Bogard, The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are (2017)

An exploration of the ground beneath us—from some of the oldest cities to the undisturbed areas we call wilderness. “We walk on ground that teems with life—an incredible one-third of all living organisms—a trove of biodiversity still only just starting to be explored”

Soil Resources

 Dig It! The Secrets of Soil 

Exhibit from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History on display at the Museum from July 18, 2008 through Jan 10, 2010. Includes useful links to extension activities, educational materials, and further reading

Global Assessment of Soil Degradation GLASOD

The UNEP-funded GLASOD project has produced a world map of human-induced soil degradation, using a expert-based approach. Includes a global map, at a scale of 1:10 million, and documented in a downloadable database

International Year of Soils Web Site (2015)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been nominated to implement the IYS 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with Governments and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Includes audio, video, and print resources

Natural Resources Conservation Service 

A collection of soil education resources and links to print and web-based information

The Land Institute

The Land Institute is a science-based research organization based on Salina, Kansas, working to develop an alternative to current destructive agricultural practices

Soil Knowledge Network

The NSW Soil Knowledge Network Inc. is a group of retired and semi-retired soil specialists who are passionate about soil and the land.  They are an independent, not-for-profit group, which captures critical soil knowledge and experience

The Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS)

The Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS) is an association of prominent international scientific societies headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. ACSESS was created by and is composed of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA, founded in 1907), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA, founded in 1955), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA, founded in 1936). Includes an extensive digital library of books, journals, magazines, and presentations

George Monbiot, Journalist

Essay “Ploughing on Regardless” (published in The Guardian 25 March 2015) centered around a question: Almost all other issues are superficial by comparison to soil loss. So why don’t we talk about it?

The Nature and Properties of Soils (15th Edition) Ray R. Weil; Nyle C. Brady Emeritus Professor

 Developed for Introduction to Soils or Soil Science courses, The Nature and Properties of Soils, Fifteenth Edition, can be used in courses such as Soil Fertility, Land Resources, Earth Science and Soil Geography.

Selected Quotations

“Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Husband it and it will grow our food, our fuel, and our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it.

Vedas (Hindu scripture, 1500 B.C.)

“We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.” – Leonardo Da Vinci, circa 1500’s

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1850)

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles

-Walt Whitman, section 52, “Song of Myself” (1855)

“The washing of soil from the mountains leaves bare ridges of sterile rock, and the rich organic mould which covered them, now swept down into the dank low grounds, promotes a luxuriance of aquatic vegetation that breeds fever and more insidious forms of mortal disease, by its decay and thus the earth is rendered no longer fit for the habitation of man.”

-George Perkins Marsh, Man and Nature (1864)

“The love of dirt is among the earliest of passions, as it is the latest.  Mud-pies gratify one of our first and best instincts.  So long as we are dirty, we are pure.  Fondness for the ground comes back to a man after he has run the round of pleasure and business, eaten dirt, and sown wild oats, drifted about the world, and taken the wind of all its moods.  The love of digging in the ground (or of looking on while he pays another to dig) is as sure to come back to him, as he is sure, at last, to go under the ground, and stay there.”

-Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden (1870)

“The United States is a democracy; it does not accomplish its ends by handing down decrees from above, but by the initiative and consent of the citizens, who must first know what they want and how to achieve it.”

Soils and Men, the 1938 Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

“Nature has endowed the Earth with glorious wonders and vast resources that man may use for his own ends. Regardless of our tastes or our way of living, there are none that present more variations to tax our imagination than the soil, and certainly none so important to our ancestors, to ourselves, and to our children”

– Charles Kellogg, The Soils That Support Us (1956)

“There are few studies more fascinating, and at the same time more neglected, than those of the teeming populations that exist in the dark realms of the soil. We know too little of the threads that bind the soil organisms to each other and to their world, and to the world above.”

-Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)

“Soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it, we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”

-Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977)

The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening

-Mary Oliver, “One or Two Things” Dream Work (1986)

Adventures in the Environmental Humanities

In June we gathered for the Second Annual Environmental Literature Institute (ELI) at Phillips Exeter Academy. In the fall one of my collaborators, Stephen Siperstein, Choate Rosemary Hall Academy, summarized the week in a piece for ASLE News.

ELI 2.0 brought together secondary school teachers from around the country to Exeter Academy, New Hampshire for a week of professional development in the Environmental Humanities. Continuing to build on the goal of the 2014 ASLE strategic plan to improve public discourse about the environment through community-based, K-12, and undergraduate programs, provided a space for educators of all experience levels to develop courses and curricula for a variety of secondary school settings, to explore how environmental approaches could inform and enliven their teaching, and to build community in the Environmental Humanities.

Our days were filled with discussion, small group work, and time for individual reflection. We read and analyzed works of environmental literature, such as passages from Thoreau’s journal and Mary Oliver’s poetry. We shared resources and helped each other imagine and design ways to incorporate field-based learning and community projects into our environmental humanities classrooms, all while contextualizing such work within wider currents in the field and our own institutions. Among other topics, we also discussed teaching climate change, addressing questions of racial justice in the environmental literature classroom, and learning how to build environmentally-focused communities in our classrooms and institutions. In the words of one participant: “As we explored how to create a classroom of kids with compassion for each other and compassion for the environment, we were sitting around campfires together, we were swimming in a creek, we were taking walks in the woods, we were swinging from ropes in trees. We were becoming the kind of community we talked about.”

Renowned author and plant biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer joined us for a keynote address on the grammar of animacy and the honorable harvest, and led an exuberant field session that highlighted how to put her ideas into practice in the classroom (and how the forest is itself a vibrant environmental humanities classroom). With both her words and her presence, Kimmerer helped us envision the entire enterprise of environmental humanities education as one of reciprocity—between teachers and students, between institutions and communities, and perhaps most importantly between the human and the nonhuman (all of us being, according to Kimmerer, kin). It is gratitude, Kimmerer emphasized in her talk, that pulls us into relations, and it was gratitude that defined the week.

Later in the week we were joined by master teachers Rochelle Johnson and Clare Walker Leslie. Rochelle led sessions on place-based pedagogy and teaching Thoreau in our current political and social moment, while Clare guided a field session in the art of seeing through drawing. Education journalist Michael Brosnan, UNH Professor Diane Freedman, and prominent climate activist and storyteller Devi Lockwood also contributed to the community, adding their perspectives and expertise.

The week concluded with a forward-looking session and time for synthesis: How will we build on the ideas, connection, and energy of this emerging community? How can ASLE welcome even more secondary school educators into its fold? What kinds of Environmental Humanities communities can exist in our classrooms, and beyond them? Between the known and the unknown, the participants at ELI staked out common ground together, and left energized and grateful, ready to return to their own classrooms and institutions this fall and do the difficult (and rewarding) work of building this field from the ground up, student by student.

Environmental Humanities at Exeter


A primary need of students and teachers alike

It began with a conversation. Jason wanted to talk over a new environmental literature course at Phillips Exeter Academy, and Mark, at the time the president of ASLE, was hoping to create new opportunities for secondary educators in our association. Two years later, twenty-five elementary and secondary school faculty gathered for the inaugural Environmental Literature Institute (ELI) at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. Participants from Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Georgia, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Toronto, Canada, spent a week in New Hampshire developing new courses and revising curriculum for a range of secondary school settings.

We welcomed as keynote speaker and workshop leader Scott Russell Sanders, who spent a year at Phillips Exeter in 1974-75 as a Bennett Fellow. And throughout the week we were guided by the generous spirit of the late Exeter Instructor Peter Greer—whose course Literature and the Land was among the earliest environmental literature courses to be taught at the secondary school level.


Scott Russell Sanders meets with ELI participants

Each day began with morning physical and reflective activities, including walking and running, yoga, and mountain biking. Participants then circled at the Harkness table to discuss writing by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gary Paul Nabhan, Richard Wright, Robert Frost, and Marc Bekoff; participated in daily field sessions with the workshop leaders; and took advantage of time set aside for course and curriculum building.

The week included a series of special events as well. Scott Russell Sanders’ presented “Taking Care of Home: Sustainability on a Small Planet.” We discussed Climate change pedagogy via Skype with Stephen Siperstein, who will be joining the faculty of Choate Rosemary Hall next year. We enjoyed an evening with John Elder reading, playing music, and discussing his newest book, Picking up the Flute, at the Water Street Bookstore. And Jennifer Pharr Davis, author and 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, shared some of her experiences walking over 12,000 miles on six different continents.


ELI gathered at the big Harkness table on the top floor of Phillips Hall

Participants considered a range of interdisciplinary and field-based pedagogies. Master teachers Scott and John shared their experiences and provided mentoring—both in the classroom and in a writing and poetry discussion at a local biodynamic farm. Clare Walker Leslie guided participants in the art of seeing nature through drawing—in the classroom, out of doors on the campus, and in the open fields of the Colby Farm. And Patrick Thomas from Milkweed Editions offered an insider’s view of the interplay between writing and publishing. ELI concluded with the participants sharing their work in progress: revised units for existing courses, new course ideas, and aspirations for interdisciplinary collaborations.

Sketching in the field at Colby Farm with the inimitable Claire Walker Leslie

Sketching in the field at Colby Farm with the inimitable Claire Walker Leslie

ELI is committed to developing a teacher collaborative committed to developing environmental humanities at the secondary level. Our vision is to share the resources of ASLE with secondary school colleagues as well as to share the wisdom, resources, and pedagogical methods of our secondary school teachers with the members of ASLE who teach in post-secondary schools.

Jason Bremiller (Phillips Exeter), John Elder (Middlebury College), and Soctt Russell Sanders (Indiana University)

Jason Bremiller (Phillips Exeter), John Elder (Middlebury College), and Soctt Russell Sanders (Indiana University)

Among the goals of the 2014 ASLE strategic plan is to improve public discourse about the environment through community-based, K-12, and undergraduate programs. To this end, members of ELI received two-year memberships to ASLE, a collection of resources from Milkweed Editions, and a subscription to Orion magazine. We have also set up in the ASLE Member Community a Chatter forum designed to share resources and materials among secondary educators working in the environmental humanities. We are considering a workshop at ASLE 2017 featuring ELI alumni. And we are talking about a mentoring network for secondary school teachers as we plan for ELI 2017.

How Not to Say Interdisciplinary

Because the literary fiction and nonfiction that I study and teach is concerned with environmental systems, the primary questions about literary production and reception that have kept professors of English busy for nearly one hundred years have become, for me at least, inextricable from complicated economic, social, and cultural activities. Though as Gregory Bateson once pointed out, our failure to relate to natural systems and processes is a product of the way we think and talk. We need alternative patterns of thinking and talking about natural and human systems, and we need new ways to teach these alternative patterns.

At the recent conference on ecocultural ethics in Goa, India, I found myself on a featured panel dedicated to the question of ecological learning. One way to define ecological learning would be to draw on Timothy Morton’s elaboration of what he calls the “ecological thought”: “The ecological crisis we face is so obvious that it become easy. . .to join the dots and see that everything is interconnected. This is the ecological thought. And the more we consider it, the more the world opens up.” As he goes on to argue, though, the ecological thought

  • “brings to light aspects of our existence that have remained unconscious for a long time; we don’t like to recall them”
  • “is about considering others, in their interests, in how we should act toward them, and in their very being”
  • “forces us to invent ways of being together that don’t depend on self interest”

This language reminds me of John Muir, in 1911, saying in My First Summer in the Sierra, that“when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Ecological learning, then, to stumble toward a more abstract formulation, is learning about what Muir call “things” and then finding that things are only really things when connected to other things.

Panel Discussion[DoPy] (9)

Fisheries biologist Aaron Salvio Lobo speaking at the session on “Ecological Learning” at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Goa, India

It is difficult to study and teach Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, for instance, without addressing basic science as well as questions about science and society; there is little doubt that reading in the literature of food or animal studies without addressing the application of rapidly evolving technology would be next to impossible; and there is no question that narratives of environmental justice raise pressing moral and ethical questions by tracing the life-world consequences of rapid developments in science and technology.

These were some of the thoughts I was having as I prepared for the panel discussion in Goa. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Samhida Shikha, from Dronacharya Government College Gurgaon, and included a fisheries biologist, Aaron Salvio Lobo, an expert on waste management, Dr. Srikanth Mutnuri, a professor of ethics who teaches at a school of mining, Dr. Ajit K. Behura and an architect, environmental educator, activist, and blogger from the capital city of Panjim, Tallulah D’Silva, whose work has been recognized in the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. The audience for our session on ecological learning included members of the humanities and social sciences, from literary and cultural studies, anthropology, philosophy, religious studies, linguistics and political science.


Another lovely cove and stretch of sand on the Arabian Sea

My contribution to the panel began with an anecdote about arriving in Mumbai at the beginning of this month to meet Rebecca, who had been teaching law in Pune. Gandhi Jayanti, the national holiday, was in full swing, and Prime Minister Modi happened to be using the occasion to kick off his Swachh Bharat Campaign. What followed were days of editorial and public commentary in the Times and in Goa periodicals and online about the clean India campaign. In Goa, one headline read “Desi tourists leave behind uncivil footprints,” and the it-is-the-other-guy’s-problem excuse was once again registered. “Calangute and Baga beaches witness trail of broken bottles and garbage: visibility upset, Calangute MLA Michael Lobo has accused the tourism department of not being serious enough to tackle the problem.” Remarkably, I noted, one person from out of state when interviewed complained of the lack of warning or display boards regarding the disposal of trash and bottles on the beach. “I don’t see a single warning signboard so it is no use blaming us tourists.” Enough said.

I then offered a case study of Keep America Beautiful (founded 1953), the largest community improvement organization in the United States, that was formed in response to the problem of highway litter that followed the construction of the Interstate Highway System and an increasingly mobile and convenience-oriented American consumer in the middle decades of the twentieth century. I traced the Keep America Beautiful organization joining with the Ad Council in 1961; the subsequent 1971Earth Day theme, “People Start Pollution. People can stop it,” featuring the well-known (and problematic) “Crying Indian” campaign launched on Earth Day, narrated by actor William Conrad, and featuring “Iron Eyes Cody,” the Native American man (who was actually an Italian) devastated to see the destruction of the earth’s natural beauty caused by the thoughtless pollution and litter of a modern society). In 1975 the “Clean Community System”  led to the “Keep My Town Beautiful” organization and the more recent “Great American Cleanup” campaigns that have organized 3.9 million volunteers who have removed seventy-six million pounds of litter and recycled hundreds of millions of pounds of metals, newsprint, tires and electronics.

While noting the fundamental historical and cultural differences with the Modi campaign, I admitted that the anecdote offered some hope for those who are rightly cynical of centralized campaigns for “cleanliness” linked to patriotism and political parties. Still, the narrative from the 1950s to the present in the US offers a complex of motivations and investments that contributed to changing the behavior of people as part of a social movement. The question I posed is how academic disciplines and institutions of higher education prepare students to participate throughout their lives in the practice of what the panel was calling ecological learning.


Our lovely friends, thoughtful colleagues and generous hosts in Goa, Rayson Alex and Susan Deborah

Listening to my colleagues, and participating in the lively audience give and take that followed in the hour we had reserved for discussion, I realized how challenging it is to free ourselves from the terminological moraines. These jumbled piles of words and phrases make it difficult to enact the necessary changes in teaching and learning that would be commensurate with the environmental predicament. What was refreshing for me was that the discussion with my Indian colleagues unfolded without the use of any of the terms so common in the discourse of American academics, terms such as “interdisciplinary,” “multidisciplinary,” “transdisciplinary.” Rather, my Indian friends and colleagues were focused on practice. They were talking about thereal work.


Rhetorical and social engineering in the park, Panjim, Goa

Since arriving back in the United States this panel discussion has stayed with me. And I have been thinking more about the terms we use to define what we do and that we deploy to stake out our place in the enterprise of higher education. It is my good fortune to be a member of a faculty that offers courses, minors and degree programs in what we call “interdisciplinary fields of study.” These include American Studies, Criminal Justice Studies, Environmental Studies, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies. Over the years, I have taught courses in three of these “fields” (American Studies, Environmental Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies) and have given much thought to the approaches taken to the various subjects, materials, and topics within these fields.

The self-evident fact that knowledge about our selves and the world, to use the commonplace jargon often used academic circles, is “constructed”  often devolves into abstract and decontextualized conversations about the knowledge and methods of academic disciplines or “interdisciplinary” fields of study or “multidisciplinary” modes of teaching and learning. The consequence is that the questions that structure the intellectual work in our colleges and universities (for professors and for students) become less salient or, arguably, less relevant—particularly in public discourse where facts are bound to be uncertain, values are disputed, and the stakes are high.

I am most grateful to my colleagues in India for helping me to think though my own evolving approach to the study, teaching, and learning as a literary and cultural historian. The term that appears most aligned with my practice as a thinker and teacher is “transdisciplinarity.” A sabbatical leave offers the necessary time and space to reflect on one’s ongoing work as a reader, writer and teacher. And among the most fruitful set of ideas for my reflections this year has been the thinking of Basarab Nicolescu—in particular, his Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity, trans K. Claire Voss (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002). A useful précis of the manifesto is available in the “Charter of Transdisciplinarity” that has its origins in the First World Congress of Transdisciplinarity convened in 1994 in Convento da Arrábida, Portugal. The document, produced by the editorial committee comprised of Lima de Freitas, Edgar Morin, and Basarab Nicolescu, has 15 articles, as well as a Preamble, that reads as follows:

·      Whereas, the present proliferation of academic and nonacademic disciplines is leading to an exponential increase of knowledge which makes a global view of the human being impossible;

·      Whereas, only a form of intelligence capable of grasping the cosmic dimension of the present conflicts is able to confront the complexity of our world and the present challenge of the spiritual and material self-destruction of the human species;

·      Whereas, life on earth is seriously threatened by the triumph of a techno-science that obeys only the terrible logic of efficacy of efficacy’s sake;

·      Whereas, the present rupture between increasingly quantitative knowledge and increasingly impoverished inner identity is leading to the rise of a new brand of obscurantism with incalculable social and personal consequences;

·      Whereas, an historically unprecedented growth of knowledge is increasing the inequality between those who have and those who do not, thus engendering increasing inequality within and between the different nations of our planet;

·      Whereas, at the same time, hope is the counterpart of all the afore-mentioned challenges, a hope that this extraordinary development of knowledge could eventually lead to an evolution not unlike the development of primates into human beings;

One cannot help but admire the ambitious and hopeful language of this manifesto. My admiration, however, is precisely how the language links the abstractions of knowledge production to the material (and ideological) planetary concerns of the present. What is really remarkable, though, is that this heady rhetoric allows for both a generative acceptance and skepticism about knowledge and power, a finely aware register of social and environmental equity and justice, and an inclusive acceptance of the human in the words “cosmic” and “spiritual.” Just how these ideas might shape one’s day-to-day work is a challenge to be sure. But the challenge might help to put the words we use to describe teaching and learning in our colleges and universities to more consequential work—words such as “integrative,” “interdisciplinary,” and “multidisciplinarity—by envisioning a transformation of both our knowledge-seeking methods and the institutions that sponsor our ongoing search.

This was my ambition in India, after all: to imagine with my colleagues practical projects for individual and collaborative inquiry that would in turn expand the scope of conventional pedagogical theory and practice. Perhaps a moratorium on any word that builds off the term “discipline” would offer a glimpse of something more.

Ecocultural Ethics

“The true artist, like the true scientist, is a researcher using materials and techniques to dig into the truth and meaning of the world in which he himself lives. . . .”

-Paul Strand, Letter to the editor of the Photographic Journal 103.7 (1963): 216.

Sixty years ago, in June of 1955, an international symposium on the relationship between the human and the earth was organized by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Historical Research in Anthropology. Convened in Princeton, New Jersey, “Man’s Role in the Changing Face of the Earth” honored George Perkins Marsh’s 1864 book Man and Nature. The symposium brought together seventy participants to further, in the words of the Wenner-Green Foundation President Paul Frejos, an understanding of the human and the earth “by synthesis, transcending the limits of present disciplines or branches of science” (vii). The conference participants, in fact, were chosen not to represent academic disciplines; and, as the symposium unfolded, in the words of one of the organizers, Marston Bates, “less and less was said in defense or in support of a particular disciplinary association” (1132).


Post-monsoon rains in the afternoon near the central coast of Goa, India

One of the conveners of the symposium, Carl O. Sauer, professor of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, raised the present and future condition of the earth as a principal ethical concern. In the words of Marston Bates, a professor of Zoology at the University of Michigan, and also a co-convener of the symposium, “What sort of world is it that we want, and can we get it?” (1134). In his summary remarks on the proceedings, Bates insisted, “the sciences and the humanities form a false dichotomy, because science is one of the humanities” (1139). The third principal organizers of the symposium, Lewis Mumford, reminded the participants that “within the limits of earth’s resources and man’s biological nature, there are as many different possible futures as there are ideals, systems of values, goals and plans, and social, political, educational, and religious organizations for bringing about their realization” (1150).


Forests and rice fields between the coast and the interior, central Goa, India

In linking ideals and systems of values to collective organizations and institutions, Mumford suggests a direction for one of my primary fields of work, ecocriticism and the environmental humanities. In preparing a keynote address that I delivered in Goa, India, this month I found myself reading in the two-volume proceedings of the International Symposium edited by William L. Thomas, Jr. in collaboration with the principal organizers of the symposium, Carl O. Sauer, Marston Bates, and Lewis Mumford, a historian, philosopher and literary critic. The Princeton Symposium reminded me of the challenges we face when ideals and systems of values run up against less agile organizations and institutions.


With colleagues and friends on an afternoon outing in Goa

Since at least the publication of David Orr’s important 1990 book Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World, those of us who work in the environmental humanities have been aware of how individual research agendas and narrow professional incentives do not directly address ecological literacy or sustainability. Orr makes a case that our individual work as research scholars will and should continue. But he is convinced that this work holds less promise in addressing the global predicament of environmental crisis. In essays with titles such as “The Problem of Education,” “What is Education For?” and “Place and Pedagogy,” Orr argues that our current ecological crisis is associated with a failure of education. We face a moral and the ethical obligation, he concludes, to rethink our professional activities as well as to transform the institutions where we work.


View from the guest house, BITS Pilani Goa

Why is this rethinking so difficult to do? In my recent keynote address at the Birla Institute of Technology Pilani Goa, I suggested to the international gathering that we need more activism within our places of work, as new kinds of interdependence are increasingly a feature of our educational institutions. In the United States, for example, professors and students are designing and implementing curricular models that emphasize collaboration across disciplines and fields of study—from applied and problem-based learning to service learning initiatives and projects involving students, teachers, and local citizens or community groups. In Goa, I encouraged my audience to imagine new ways to integrate ecological, ethical and social contexts in the work of the humanities. I called on the words of a colleague, and former president of ASLE, Ursula Heise, who argues that the environmental humanities by definition “seeks to respond to the call for new institutional formations to correspond to innovative kinds of knowledge. . . [and] also to translate humanistic research more effectively into the public sphere” (“Comparative”). And yet I cautioned that transformations of academic programs and institutions requires valuing this work—among our peers, in our disciplinary associations, as well as in faculty promotion and retention standards. For it is easy to say that our activities are constituted in socially constructed systems, and that our activities can reconstitute those very systems. It is much more difficult to do.

In preparing my remarks for BITS Pilani Goa, I learned that the Birla Institute was founded by the industrialist Ghanshyam Das Birla who voiced a broad and progressive approach to education. “What do we propose to do here?” he asked. “We want to teach real science, whether it is engineering, chemistry, humanities, physics or any other branch.” The next generation of the Birlas speak in similar language. Here is Basant Kumar Birla echoing the same educational ethos. “For a rich and full life, interest and involvement in Fine Arts, Music, Literature, Social, Cultural and Spiritual activities are essential.” And Dr. Sarala Birla, the wife of Basant Kumar—and daughter of activist and writer Brijlal Biyani—Education is a meaningless ritual, unless it moulds the character of students and imparts in them a strong sense of values.”

In my keynote that opened the conference I asked the hundreds of participants to consider recent trends and future directions in “ecocultural ethics” as intellectual work in our shared study of environmental issues and problems. I shared a few examples of innovative collaborations with students, academic colleagues and community-based groups: faculty and students conducting research together, often by taking the campus or local community as a site for the inquiry (a pedagogical model, by the way, that responds well to the call for surveys of employers and business leaders—in the US and in The Times of India that I read in Mumbai—for the human skills of thinking well, communicating effectively, collaborating, and persuasion; programs, centers, and institutes in which faculty are working on projects not limited by disciplinary, methodological or epistemological differences; and technology initiatives designed to build resources for academics, journalists, and the members of the public.


Dinner following the conference on the edge of the Arabian Sea

We then talked, in the discussion period and throughout the conference, about comparable projects and initiatives in India. One of the research scholars was inspired by my talk and invited tribal people to the BITS campus for his presentation. And later, during an evening out with colleagues, I learned more about the generative work of one of the conference organizers (who is collaborating with my English colleague Rayson Alex on the natural and cultural history of a bird sanctuary near Panjim) Solano Jose Savio Da Silva, who works in Development Studies and Political Science.

Island Time

From Lynchburg, Virginia, en route from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia, on my way to the eighth biennial conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. There are over six hundred and fifty attendees this year, from twenty-eight countries. We’ve gathered by plane and ferry to the University of Victoria (“U-Vic”) to share our work in the field of environmental writing and literature.

victoria 008Teresita Fernandez, “Seattle Cloud Cover”

I arrive on the Victoria Clipper, a boat passage we never did during our years in Seattle. A number of ASLE folk are on the afternoon boat that departs from Pier 69. It is good to be out on the water again, with the Cascades and the Olympics lingering in the distance. I am reminded of kayak trips in these waters as we cruise along Whidbey Island and then out into open water. When we arrive in Victoria in the evening we flag down a blue Prius cab that takes us to the University where we settle into the residence halls and townhouses on one side of the campus.

victoria 027One of many rabbits on the U-Vic lawns

I spend my first full day on the island at the ASLE Executive Council meeting and then, in the afternoon, help to facilitate a pre-conference workshop on the academic job search. The following day I am part of a roundtable for graduate students—“Finding Your Niche: Thoughts on Negotiating the Job Market”—where I share some of my experiences as a graduate student, job candidate, faculty member, search committee member and department chair. As the Coordinator of the ASLE Mentoring Program, I organize mentoring meetings, and on Wednesday I conduct one of these meetings with a post-doctoral instructor at Stanford University.

victoria 020John Felstiner and Lynn Keller near the summit of Mt. Finlayson

On Friday afternoon I join a group of about fifteen or twenty on an afternoon walk up Mt. Finlayson—one of the highest points in Southern Vancouver Island.  John Felstiner and I enjoy an hour-long afternoon conversation about poets and poetry as we pick our way down from the rocky summit and under the canopy of evergreens. Then, on Saturday, I co-faciltate a wonderful half-day workshop with my colleague John Tallmadge. “Staying Alive: A Workshop for Academic Professionals” brought together a group of fifteen or so faculty to discuss academic life. John’s summary of our meeting is available on our Staying Alive blog.

victoria 007Sculpture on the Seattle Waterfront, near Pier 69

In and around these meetings were numerous conversations, meals with colleagues and friends, an author’s reception (where we had copies of Teaching North American Environmental Literature available) and a wonderful donwtown dinner with K and I and M and J. ASLE  is a remarkable thing, and I am deeply grateful to the commitments I share with this wily group of teachers and scholars devoted to the environmental humanities. Since the inception of our organization, we’ve diversified our membership and the program reflects a vibrant field of intellectual work. Every time I get together with these people, I come away renewed by the ideals that motivate our lives as teacher, readers and writers.

summer09 040A pre-conference afternoon kicking steps in the Tatoosh range, south of Mt. Rainier

The Canadian venue for this 2009 ASLE gathering has been especially rewarding for me, as I was among a group who advocated for a Canadian site on the ASLE Executive Council many years ago. Our conference organizer, Dan Philippon, and our co-organizer and host, Richard Pickard, have done a beautiful job  keeping us all headed in the  right directions and encouraging us to best use our limited time here. Kudos!

A Keynote Address

It is the end of May and I am up early running in the Virginia woods near the campus of Lynchburg College. It is humid, not too warm, and I’ve found my way to a trail that winds its way beneath a canopy of oak trees. A white tail deer bounds across the trail, two black feral dogs skitter away as I come into view and catch the scent of a rotting carcass, and I stop to admire the intricate orange streaks on two good sized painted turtles in the trail.

summer09 028

I am in Virginia as one of three invited speakers for the conference “3-4  Hour: Conversations on Moving to Four Credit Hour Courses.  The conversations among the faculty and staff teams from a range of institutions are familiar to me. The same questions, problems and concerns, the same sense of excitement and sense that we might indeed be doing things differently, perhaps even better, for our undergraduate students—the kinds of conversations we have been having at Keene State College. The conference appears extremely productive for participants as they weigh the promises and the potential pitfalls of transforming their curricula. One of the strengths of the conference is that the colleges represented are at all stages of the process—from exploring the idea of four-credit hour courses to having already decided to move to four-credit hour courses. In my keynote is to tell the story of Keene State College and to speak from my role as one of the faculty members who worked to create the four-credit English proposal and then helped the campus move toward a predominantly four-credit hour curriculum.

summer09 034

Lynchburg College is a very congenial place—the green grass of the Dell, stately Georgian-style buildings of red brick and white columns, the home of the fighting hornets (“the stingers”). The banners on the Dell say “Above and Beyond,” the marketing tag that captures the Lynchburg brand. Lynchburg, the college brochure says, is a “place to call home,” nestled below the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lynchburg is also the home of Falwell’s Liberty University and the Thomas Rhodes Baptist Church (which we drive by on the way to an Indian dinner on Saturday night)—ground zero of the religious right during the so-called culture wars that flared in the 1980s. Earlier in the twentieth century, Lynchburg was the home of the poet Anne Spencer, who was a friend and contemporary of Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson and James Weldon Johnson.

The Ecological Thought

Someone asked me the other day about my scholarship and I promised to post something about my recent writing. Here is a summary of my contributions to ongoing conversations about American poetry, environmental writing and the profession of English.

American Poetry
williamsI began writing about American poetry with two peer-reviewed journal articles: one on the poet Denise Levertov and one on William Carlos Williams. In 2004, my work on Williams continued with “Ideas as Forms of Beauty: William Carlos Williams’s Paterson and A. R. Ammons’s Tape for the Turn of Year,” an essay that appeared in  the book Rigor of Beauty: Essays in Commemoration of William Carlos Williams. More recently, my work in American poetry and poetics has contributed to the emerging field of ecopoetry. My essay “William Carlos Williams, Ecocriticism, and Contemporary American Poetry” appeared in the book Ecological Poetry: A Critical Introduction. Two additional essays were published this fall: a 10,000 word overview of the life and writing of A. R. Ammons, commissioned by the Dictionary of Literary Biography, and a 10,000 word critical history of the relationship between poetry and ecology that appeared in a multi-volume anthology entitled Reading in Contemporary America. In addition, since 2003, I’ve published shorter reference entries on the American poets William Carlos Williams, Theodore Roethke, Mary Oliver, W. S. Merwin, Gary Snyder, and Denise Levertov. I also regularly review new books of American poetry for ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. My most recent review is Mary Oliver’s book of poetry Thirst.

Environmental Writing and Ecocriticism

tnaelcover1Four years of work with co-editors Laird Christensen and Fred Waage has resulted in the publication of Teaching North American Environmental Literature (MLA 2008). Our book provides a center of access to the range of pedagogical possibilities for teaching environmental literature. The collection includes over thirty contributors and features essays on the environmental literatures of Canada as well as Mexican and Mexican-American environmental literature. The book includes a section for further reading, “Resources for Teaching Environmental Literature: A Selective Guide.” Before my last promotion I published the essay “Education and Environmental Literacy: Teaching Ecocomposition in Keene State College’s Environmental House” that appeared in Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches. This publication has led to a series of publications on environmental writers and ecocriticism. In 2004 I published a 12,000 word entry on John McPhee in Dictionary of Literary Biography: Twentieth-Century Nature Writers: Prose. My essay “Ecocriticism and the Practice of Reading” appeared in the fall of 2006 special issue of the journal Reader: Essays in Reader-Oriented Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy that I guest edited. Reader is a semiannual publication that generates discussion on reader-response theory, criticism, and pedagogy. My essay, and the special issue, is focused around the relationship between reading and ecological thinking.

My sabbatical offered me the time to write and present a plenary talk at an international conference in Hyderabad, India, “Shifting Ground: The Emergence of the Bioregion and the Watershed in the Teaching of North American Environmental Literature.” A revised version of this talk appeared this fall in the inaugural 2008 issue of the Indian Journal of Ecocriticism. I’ve also written a review of the first collection of essays on environmental literature and theory published in India, Essays in Ecocriticism, that will appear in ta forthcoming issue of  ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment.

The Profession of English Studies

aculturescoverFor over ten years I have been writing about the profession of English. As a graduate student, while co-directing the Expository Writing Program at the University of Washington, I co-wrote and published the essay “Graduate Students, Professional Development Programs, and the Future(s) of English Studies” in the journal WPA: Writing Program Administration. Since arriving at Keene State College, my work in this area has focused on the intellectual work of English in particular institutional sites. In 2004, a Keene State College Faculty Development Pool Grant enabled me to travel to the Association of the Departments of English (ADE) Summer Seminar to broaden my perspective as a scholar interested in the profession of English. Moreover, serving for three years as a member (and for one year as Chair) of the MLA Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities (CAFPRR) furthered my understanding of the general conditions of the field of English studies and the professional lives of teachers and scholars. My subsequent inquiry into graduate training, the professional identity of faculty, and the small college department has been disseminated in a series of publications, book reviews and conference presentations. In 2005 I was invited to write a featured “Commentary” on the small college department, that I titled “Where Do You Teach?”, for the fall 2005 issue of the journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture. And my essay “Reading, Writing and Teaching in Context,” appeared in the book Academic Cultures: Professional Preparation and the Teaching Life (MLA 2008). This essay takes as its subject the representation of faculty work in terms of research and teaching as separate activities. My argument is that this pervasive subplot in the narrative of the profession is rooted in a representation of faculty work that transcends the local institution and the ways that departments and institutions define intellectual work.