Eng 122EA, Winter 2017

The Rhetoric of Environmental Activism

This course is an experiment. It begins with the assumption that global climate change is real and that its causes are anthropogenic (i.e. human caused). Consequently, solutions will not be just technological, or even mostly so, but will also need to involved profound cultural changes to our beliefs, practices, and styles of life. The difficulty in bringing this about is not only that many Americans are skeptical of climate change, even if this is acknowledged, the causes and solutions to the problem are being fiercely debated on the public stage. It has also, sadly, become a political issue dividing our nation. This course will carefully look at the rhetoric of these debates.

We will be critically reading a variety of contemporary texts that deal with the issue of climate change. In the process, we will be honing our skills as critical, active readers. One of the keys to effective reading, regardless of whether the text at hand is a Victorian novel or content on a website, is that the process be active. When reading for pleasure, it is perfectly fine to enter into an imaginative world and just enjoy your time there. However, in reading critically—which is, or at least should be, an essential skill taught in university literature departments—it is necessary to carefully consider what an author and text are doing. Authors have enormous power, as they can, one word at a time, influence each step of a reader’s experience of a text. In this sense, an author is like a guide walking you through what may be unknown territory. They not only decide what you see (and don’t) and when you see it, they are also in a position to influence how you see it though their careful representations. The more skillful the author, the more power they have over the representation and hence also over the reader. Note that for our purposes a “text” can be a written work (like on a website), a photograph or painting, a film or video, or a range of additional creations and that any of these can be “read” in our sense of being actively studied.


“Please rate the overall quality of the Instructor’s teaching using the following scales”

Average rating: 4.9 of 5 (♣♣♣♣♣ Excellent; ♣♣♣♣ Very Good; ♣♣♣ Good; ♣♣ Fair; ♣ Poor)

♣♣♣♣♣ Third class I’ve taken with you and you are so great at what you do. The knowledge you have about climate issues is amazing and I love hearing what you have to say because it makes me feel like I can make a personal difference. I love the climate change classes and I hope I can get at least one more in before I graduate next year. Great Professor 😊

♣♣♣♣♣ One of the most unique and informational and important and relevant courses relating to modern day issues we need to be reading and thinking about. There is no better professor that could have taught this course. I feel like Professor Hiltner is an encyclopedia and this course truly enhanced my knowledge on environmental issues. I’ve never felt more engaged and inspired to learn. Thank you Professor Hiltner for offering this amazing course!!

♣♣♣♣♣ This class was my favorite class of the quarter. Taking this class is causing me to consider turning my English minor into a major. You know the material incredibly well and I truly appreciate the intersection within this class. I am hoping to make a lifestyle change after this. Thank you for an incredible and engaging class.

♣♣♣♣♣ The second class I have taken with Professor Hiltner. An excellent instructor, hugely insightful and quite talented at analyzing in an interdisciplinary way. I really enjoyed this experimental class, I thought it really put the students in the driver’s seat as far as research, etc. It was also very informative on the impact of my own life.

♣♣♣♣♣ The class was very eye opening, informative, and interesting. I loved that the students somewhat got to direct what we learned. I think it could have been interesting if more creative forms of presenting had been encouraged instead of just the normal PowerPoint lecture format.

♣♣♣♣♣ I felt the classroom environment encouraged discussion that was both thought provoking and accepting of a range of different opinions which broadened my learning.

♣♣♣♣♣ Very soothing voice. Knowledge and passion for material is infectious. Discussions flowed naturally. Course felt very worthwhile.

♣♣♣♣♣ Very insightful course—glad to able to engage with more of the scientific aspect of climate change in an English course.

♣♣♣♣♣ I had Professor Hiltner before when I was a freshman. I was so excited to have another class with him. He is a really amazing Professor just like I remembered from before.

♣♣♣♣♣ By pairing rhetoric of environmentalism with English, I found a new interest of mine! I’m extremely happy to have taken this class.

♣♣♣♣♣ Thank you for providing another platform to engage in the meaningful discussion surrounding Environmental issues. I thoroughly enjoyed this class and learned a lot.

♣♣♣♣♣ Great content and discussion. There is not much I would change about this course. Very welcoming of multiple opinions and perspectives.

♣♣♣♣♣ I loved this course! It was so fascinating and extremely educational. Thank you to the instructor and TA for being so engaging and making the environment fun and easy to engage in!

♣♣♣♣♣ Most interesting and fun class ever!

♣♣♣♣♣ Great structure and promoted discussion.

♣♣♣♣♣ Amazing class. Enjoyed the structure of it and the conversations around environmentalism. 10/10 would recommend.

♣♣♣♣♣ Very chill.

♣♣♣♣ Was an interesting class. Material wise—was nice to explore different aspects as to how one also impacts the environment. Lecture wise—I wish there was a different set up; group discussion and then bigger group discussion. This made it difficult for me to voice my opinion.

No rating Extremely engaging class—changed my view point on so many topics.