(A.K.A. ECOCRITICISM 101)
(Jump down to Syllabus)
Is this the official website for Eng 22?
Yes, this is the Fall 2023 website for English 22, which is a course taught by Ken Hiltner at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
I just stumbled on this page. What’s this all about?
This website contains a university course on ecocriticism. It is a complete course and completely open to the public. Although the only way to receive university credit for the course is by taking English 22 at UCSB, it is nonetheless possible to access all of the lectures for that course on this website, free of cost.
Why is English 22 also called Ecocriticism 101?
The URL associated with this material is “ecocriticism101.com.” However, the UCSB course that this is based upon has the designation “English 22, Introduction to Literature and the Environment.” Sorry for any confusion – as this is hardly an ideal situation – but this is how UCSB designates its courses. Nonetheless, Eng 22 is a 101 (i.e. introductory) course on the study of literature and the environment, also known as “ecocriticism.” Why not stick with the name “English 22” throughout? The simple fact is that it’s hardly a descriptive name. Actually, it’s not even a little descriptive… So, in order to make the course immediately recognizable to an online audience as an introduction to the study of literature and the environment, it is also known as “Ecocriticism 101.”
Course Overview and Approach
This course is a sweeping survey of Western literature and culture from an environmental perspective.
In much the same way that feminist critics are interested in literary representations of gender and women, ecological literary and cultural critics (or simply “ecocritics”) explore how our relationship to nature is imagined. As with changing perceptions of gender, such literary representations are not only generated by particular cultures, they play a significant role in generating those cultures. Thus, if we wish to understand contemporary America’s attitude toward the environment, its literary history is an excellent place to start.
While authors such as Thoreau and Wordsworth may first come to mind in this context, literary responses to environmental concerns are often as old as the issues themselves. Deforestation, air pollution, endangered species, wetland loss, animal rights, and rampant consumerism have all been appearing as controversial issues in Western literature for hundreds – and in some cases thousands – of years.
Starting with an excerpt from one of the West’s earliest texts, The Myth of Gilgamesh, this course will explore the often-ignored literary and cultural history of the natural world.
In addition to being an introduction to ecocriticism, we will also be considering philosophy, history, religion, and culture from an environmental perspective. Thus, this course also provides an introduction to the environmental humanities, including environmental history, eco-philosophy, eco-theology, eco-art history, architecture and the environment, and (through the course’s films) environmental media studies.
The UCSB Current published an article on this course entitled, “Earthly Concerns.”
The course lecturer is Professor Ken Hiltner (that’s me). Since I wrote and recorded all this material, whenever something is written in the first person (i.e. “I believe that…”), it is my voice that you are hearing. In addition to the UCSB, I have taught at Harvard, where I received my Ph.D., and at Princeton, where I served for a year as the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and Humanities. Currently I am the Director of the T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Program.
He/His/Him; always “Ken,” never “Professor Hiltner.”
Your TA is your primary contact person for Eng 22.
If your last name begins with A-L, your TA is Deena Al-halabieh (email@example.com).
If your last name begins with M-Z, your TA is Meet Muchhala (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please direct all questions to your TA, not Ken, as they handle all issues regarding attendance, comments, exams, and grading.
However, whenever possible, please post any questions that you may have to the Canvas Q&A forum – which can be accessed at the top of the course Canvas landing page – rather than emailing them to your TA. See the below FAQs for more on the Canvas Q&A.
The Lead TA, who handles the technical aspects of Eng 22, is Aisha Anwar (email@example.com).
Please direct questions to the Lead TA regarding
1) iClicker issues,
2) Canvas, where the online gradebook resides,
3) Gauchocast, from which some of the documentaries stream,
4) DSP accommodations on the exams,
5) all additional technical questions.
Course format (this is not an online course at UCSB!)
This is a free online course for anyone wishing to take it worldwide. However, UCSB students must attend this course in Campbell Hall.
Details on course format for UCSB students:
1) All students enrolled in Eng 22 are required to attend the lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00am-12:15pm in Campbell Hall (where attendance, which will be part of the course grade, will be taken via iClicker).
2) Please note I am not in a position to be able to offer any exceptions to this in-person policy, as this is a campus-wide mandate.
3) The only exceptions that can be made to attending the lectures in Campbell Hall are for medical reasons approved by UCSB’s DSP office.
How do medical exceptions work?
According to UCSB’s Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC), medical exceptions must be DSP-approved: “[s]tudents with documented medical situations, such as serious immuno-comprised conditions that preclude their participation in classroom instruction, may be approved for a remote learning accommodation. These accommodations are approved and administered by the Disabled Students Program (DSP)…”
Contact the DSP office regarding such accommodations, as they are the office that needs to approve it.
Please note that I have no connection to (or influence over) the DSP office.
4) If you miss class for a brief temporary period for a documented medical reason, including a positive COVID test or required isolation or quarantine, please contact your TA.
Does this course have discussion sections?
No, it does not. Even though you will be assigned a TA, there are no discussion sections in this course.
All course content will be delivered through the live lectures, the short prerecorded lectures, the readings, and the course films. Weekly course discussions will primarily take place through the online comments on the readings and films.
Is Eng 22 related to Eng 23 and Eng 24?
Yes. English 22 is part of a sequence of three courses that I teach every year at UCSB: Eng 22 in the Fall, Eng 23 in the Winter, and Eng 24 in the Spring.
Although complementary, none of these courses is a prerequisite for the other.
Descriptions for Eng 22, 23, & 24
English 22 (Introduction to Literature & the Environment) explores how we got into our environmental predicament by considering nearly 5000 years of Western literature, thinking, and culture that helped bring us here.
English 23 (The Climate Crisis, Part I) introduces the climate crisis and explores what each of us can do about it. Hence, it is designed to invite personal reflection, as it explores ways that we can all help mitigate the climate crisis.
English 24 (The Climate Crisis, Part II), which is our course, is, as noted above, designed to introduce students to a variety of perspectives on the climate crisis, as a range of scholars and activists will speak to the class about their work on the crisis.
Does Eng 22 count toward the T. A. Barron Certificate in Environmental Leadership?
Yes, people who have taken English 22, 23, and 24 automatically receive the T. A. Barron Certificate in Environmental Leadership for having taken all three courses. There is an award ceremony every Spring for the Certificate.
All that you need to do is email me (Ken) with proof that you have taken these three courses. Because Eng 22, 23, and 24 can be difficult to get into (they often have waitlists of nearly 200 people), if you have taken two of the courses and are having trouble getting into the third, just email me, as I will give you admission preference.
This Certificate is made possible by author T. A. Barron, who generously donated $500,000 to UCSB in order to create the T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Program. The Barron Certificate is something that you can list on your résumé (and on LinkedIn and anywhere else that you’d like).
Why are you teaching Eng 22, Eng 23 & Eng 24?
We are often asked about what we do (i.e. asked what do we do for a living or what it is that we are majoring in school), rather than why we do what we do – which, as far as I’m concerned, is a much more interesting question.
Why am I teaching these three courses every year?
It is simple enough: in order to foster greater awareness of the climate crisis and draw attention to what needs to be done to mitigate it.
A more complete explanation
The first iteration of the companion course to Eng 22 (Eng 23, “The Climate Crisis, Part I”) began as a new decade opened, on January 6, 2020.
This decade, 2020-30, has been called the “decisive decade,” as the nations of planet earth need to cut their carbon emissions in half by 2030 in order to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. If we are able to achieve these reductions by 2030 and 2050, we will be able to keep global temperature from rising above 1.5–2 °C of pre-industrial levels – which is necessary to avert a true global climate catastrophe.
I think of myself as a scholar-activist, which means that, in addition to spending my days reading and writing (i.e. being a scholar), I also work at bringing about societal change. Specifically, in my case, as I am a scholar of the environmental humanities, I work at bringing about cultural change with respect to the climate crisis. Hence, I am really a mash-up of scholar and climate activist.
By teaching as many students as possible about this unfolding crisis and what we can do about it, my hope is that I just might make a difference in the world – even if it’s only a small difference.
Why is it so important for me to try to make a difference?
I have a young daughter, who was born in the teens. The world that I will be leaving her is in the midst of a climate crisis that might just turn into a full-blown catastrophe. For her sake, I need to do all that I can to keep that from happening.
That’s why I’m teaching these courses.
My goal is to continue teaching this suite of courses to as many students as I can throughout the “decisive decade.” As noted above, these courses will be taught every year: Eng 22 in the Fall, Eng 23 in the Winter, and Eng 24 in the Spring.
Navigating this website
In the lower right of this page, note the faint box with a small chevron in it. Click the chevron at any point and the page will quickly scroll up to the top. At the top of every weekly page is a “Back to Syllabus” link that returns you to this page.
Navigating this site on a mobile device
If you are viewing this website on a smartphone and the text seems small, please hold your phone horizontally (i.e. in landscape mode). If you are reading on a tablet, do just the opposite: hold the device vertically (portrait mode).
Reading on a smartphone turned sideways may initially feel a little odd (especially if you, like most people, are used to holding your phone in portrait mode), but this webpage was designed so that doing so replicates the width and line length, and hence in some ways the general feel, of a print book.
Since this long webpage is filled with just text, scrolling through it like a book should make for a more pleasant experience. Note that some mobile browsers will display this page better than others. Safari works well on iOS, Chrome on Android.
What do students think of this course?
All of the student evals for Eng 22 for the 2020-21 class year are published to this website.
Syllabus for English 22,
“Introduction to Literature and the Environment”
(a.k.a. “Ecocriticism 101”)
Generally, each of the ten weeks of the quarter you will attend two lectures in Campbell Hall from 11:00am -12:15pm (PST), one is on Tuesday; one is on Thursday. Lectures start promptly at 11:00am and run for the entire period. As two of the 20 class sessions this quarter will be taken up by the exams and we do not have class on Thanksgiving, there are a total of 17 lectures.
You must attend these lectures in Campbell Hall to receive course credit. See below for details on the attendance policy.
A day or two after the lectures have been delivered, they will be uploaded to both YouTube and GauchoCast. The YouTube recordings of the lectures can be streamed directly from this website. They can be accessed via the above “Weekly Schedule.” Hence, even if you cannot attend class, you can watch the lecture in its entirety at a time of your choosing (though you will not receive attendance credit). You can return to the prerecorded lectures at any time. For example, doing so maybe useful in preparing for the exams.
There is a corresponding reading for each week. The readings are listed on the webpage for that week.
You may either do the weekly readings prior to watching the lectures or after. The choice is yours. You may well find the weekly readings more interesting if you first watch Ken’s lecture contextualizing them.
There are three required texts for this course:
The Course Reader is available from SBprinter in the UCen. Here is the link to the online ordering page:
The hardcopy should cost $34.00 if you pick it up in the UCen. They can also ship it to you for an additional cost. A digital version is not available.
The only other text that you will need to buy is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Amazon lists the Houghton Mifflin paperback for around $15 and the Kindle edition at around $12. An Audible version is also available.
Finally, we will be reading from Walden; Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau. I have created a free online version of this text that you will be required to use, as it contains a Preface and Introduction that I wrote to frame the material. It can be found here.
My goal was to keep the total cost for the course textbooks as close to $50 as possible. This is the only cost that you will incur for Eng 22.
Each of the ten weeks of the quarter you will watch one or more films (i.e. documentaries). Film details can be accessed via the above “Weekly Schedule.” These films either stream from GauchoCast, which is accessible from Canvas, or are available free online.
Ken has recorded a short introductory talk for each week’s film(s), which stream from YouTube but can be viewed on this website on the weekly pages. After watching the weekly film and Ken’s introductory talk, please go to YouTube to make a comment on Ken’s weekly talk. Please see “Comment on the Course Films” below for more details.
Please note: As with the weekly readings, you may well find the films more interesting if you first watch Ken’s talk contextualizing them. Then, after watching the film(s), you can go to Ken’s talk on YouTube to comment.
1) Attendance is worth 20% of the course grade. Attendance will not be taken on the first, introductory day of class. Thanksgiving is an official holiday; everyone receives attendance credit for it. You also receive attendance credit for the midterm and final exams.
Attendance will be taken via iClicker Student, through an app on your phone. Please note that the iClicker system is designed to create a geofence around lecture halls. This is so that students using the app somewhere outside of the lecture hall (let’s say at home, for example) WILL NOT receive attendance credit.
Attendance will be taken, at random intervals, during each lecture via iClicker. You must respond to at least two thirds of the iClicker questions to receive full credit for attendance.
2) Midterm and Final exams
The midterm will be in Campbell Hall during our regular class period, 11:00am -12:15pm, on Thursday, November 2. Please save this date! The midterm will cover the first five weeks of the course – i.e. the first 9 lectures, the first 4 reading (in order to give you more time to study for the midterm, there is no reading assignment during Week #5), and the first 5 film assignments.
The final exam will be in Campbell Hall during our regular class period, 11:00am -12:15pm, on December 7. Please save this date! The final exam will not be cumulative; rather, it will just cover the last five weeks of the course (i.e. the final 9 lectures and the last 5 reading and film assignments).
Common details of both the midterm and final exams:
1) Each exam is worth 30% of the course grade (i.e. 60% total for the two exams).
2) Each exam has 60 multiple choice questions. Therefore, each exam question is worth 1/2 % of the total course grade.
3) The exam questions are all multiple-choice and you will generally be selecting from five possibilities.
4) Since they are taking place during the regular class period, each exam will be 75 minutes long (unless you have a pre-arranged DSP accommodation, in which case you will be taking the exam in a separate room with a proctor).
5) Exams will be paper-based. Please bring a number two pencil.
6) Exams will NOT be open-book.
7) In order to discourage academic dishonesty, there will be four separate versions of the exams, with each version having the exam questions in a different order. Hence, the person sitting next to you will be working on a different exam.
8) In addition to questions on the readings and lectures, the exams will also include questions on the course films and Ken’s short intros on YouTube.
9) Talking to your neighbor is not allowed during the exams.
10) No devices may be open during the exams.
3) Comments on the Course Films are worth 20% of the total course grade. Hence, as there are 10 films assignments, each film comment is worth 2% of the course grade.
Each week you will be commenting on the weekly film(s) on the course YouTube channel (Ecocriticism101). You will be notified of the week’s film via the above “Weekly Schedule.”
You have seven days to make the weekly comments. The links for Ken’s weekly videos will become active at 6am (PST) of every Monday morning. You must comment by 6am (PST) the following Monday to receive credit for the comment. If you do not wish to use your real name on YouTube, you may use a screen name, but you need to inform your TA if you are doing so.
All commenting should be done on Ken’s YouTube film videos, which will be posted at the beginning of each week. Note that if a film that we are screening appears on YouTube, such as Hasan Minhaj’s “The Ugly Truth Of Fast Fashion,” DO NOT comment on this video directly but rather to Ken’s commentary on it. Only comments made to Ken’s YouTube videos will be credited toward your course grade.
Six of your YouTube comments (i.e. 3 of the first 5 and 3 of the second 5) should be a reply made to a comment made by a fellow student.
You just need to make one comment/reply per week.
For 4 of the 10 weeks of the term, you make a comment on my YouTube video.
For 6 of the 10 weeks of the term, you reply to someone else’s comment on my YouTube video.
Since comments are made to YouTube, you are able to see what your classmates have written. Reading through them can be a thought-provoking experience, as it can give you the opportunity to see the sorts of reactions others have had. (This might also help you assess your own work, as you can see how much time and thought that your classmates are giving to the assignment.) As you no doubt know, online discussions are not only possible, but are often particularly thoughtful, as we have the benefit of time in making our replies well considered.
Getting graded on your comments:
As you make your weekly comments, please cut and paste each of them into a single text file on your computer. Doing this as you make them will save you the trouble of trying to find them on YouTube. Please make sure that you create and save this file, as there are occasionally issues with YouTube (see below).
1) Comments for the first five films need to be uploaded to Canvas by 6 AM on Monday, November 6, 2023.
2) Comments for the second five films need to be uploaded to Canvas by 6 AM on Monday, December 11, 2023.
To upload your comments to Canvas, please do the following:
1) Open up the course Canvas page,
2) Select “October 30 – November 5” for the 1st group of films or “December 4 – December 10” for the 2nd group of films.
3) Click the assignment titled “Film Comments” and a text box will pop up.
4) Copy and paste your five comments as text into the box, rather than uploading them in a Word doc or PDF. Please make sure to include all five of your comments.
5) Please indicate whether each of your comments is a “reply” to a peer or your “original” comment so that we can see that you have made six “reply” comments total by the end of the quarter.
6) Please make sure you hit the “SUBMIT ASSIGNMENT” button.
If you have any questions about the above procedure, please post them to the course Q&A on Canvas or contact your TA. Your TA will provide more information on the above as we get closer to these deadlines.
How do I enroll in the Honors Section?
Email Ken with your reasons for wanting to join the Honors Section by midnight on Oct 1, 2023. The honors section will be in-person on Thursdays from 10:00-10:50am in South Hall 2623.
Where are the course announcements and updates?
I (Ken) will primarily be communicating with the class by way of the “Instructor Announcements” (which is located at the top of our Canvas landing page), rather than emails.
My reason for this approach is that it consolidates the updates and notices of changes to the course in one convenient place where you can quickly scroll down and see them all – rather than searching through a slew of emails from me in your Inbox.
Similarly, check the Q&A (see below) regularly, as important points will no doubt be brought up there throughout the term.
In short, in order to make sure that you have not missed important information, please regularly check the Instructor Announcements and Q&A!
Where is the course material located?
The course content is primarily located here, on my personal website, which is housed on English Department servers. Note that anyone can access this material, regardless of whether they are in the class or enrolled at UCSB.
Why do it this way?
Knowledge, as far as I (Ken) am concerned, should be as free and accessible as possible to everyone. This is especially the case when it relates to urgent issues of concern to us all, such as our current climate and environmental crisis.
Hence, as anyone can view the course content, feel free to share it with friends and family members who may be interested.
Is it possible to get extra credit in this class?
Unfortunately, no. The class is just too large for the course TAs to keep track of extra credit.
Is there flexibility in the grading?
In order to be fair to everyone in the class, no special accommodations will be made with respect to grading. In other words, without exception, your letter grade for the course will be based on your percentage grade. Sorry.
Further explanation of grading
Questions? Don’t email, instead post them to the course Q&A!
Here is the official scale used by UCSB (which we will be using in this class), showing letter grade, percentage, and GPA:
A+, 97 and above, 4.0
A, 93–96%, 4.0
A−, 90–92%, 3.7
B+, 87–89%, 3.3
B, 83–86%, 3.0
B−, 80–82% ,2.7
C+, 77–79%, 2.3
C ,73–76%, 2.0
C−, 70–72%, 1.7
D+, 67–69%, 1.3
D, 63–66%, 1.0
D−, 60–6 %, 0.7
F, 0–59%, 0.0
As noted above, there is no extra credit available in Eng 24.
Whenever possible, please post any questions that you may have to the Q&A forum – which can be accessed at the top of the course Canvas landing page – rather than emailing them to me (Ken) or your TA. The course TAs and I will be monitoring the Q&A for questions.
Because we have such a large class (860 people!), the answer to your question may benefit a number of your classmates, not just you.
For example, let’s say that I noted something in one of the lectures that seemed to somewhat contradict what was on the Prezi. As my response to your question may help clarify a real ambiguity, everyone in the class could potentially benefit by reading it. Moreover, if you are unclear about a technical detail, such as how to upload your documentary comments to Canvas, the clarification could help everyone.
Feel free to answer any questions that you can, as you may be able to really help someone! Although the course TAs and I will be routinely checking this forum for new questions, your help is most welcome.
For example, let’s say that at 11pm someone posts that they are confused about where to find the course films. It is unlikely that the TAs and I will read this till the next morning. However, if you happen to see this post at 11:30pm, you could explain where GauchoCast is on Canvas and how it works. In so doing, you could help someone out who was hoping to watch the film that night. It is also sometimes the case that people are looking for material that can be found on the course website or Canvas. In which case, all that you need to do is point them in the right direction.
Because a number of important points will likely be raised throughout the quarter in the Q&A, please regularly read through it, as this will become a useful knowledge bank. If you have a question and would like a quick answer, it might just be in the Q&A.
Even though this is technically a Q&A, feel free to post comments in addition to questions to this forum. If, for example, you felt that a reading was particularly helpful (or particularly confusing), I would like to hear about it. As my goal is to keep improving this class every year, feedback like this can help me do just that.
Seriously, I am interested in hearing what you have to say!
What if I have a personal question that I do not want to post to the course Q&A?
Your TA is your primary contact person. If you have a question that you would prefer not to post to the course Q&A – for example, if it is of a personal nature – please email your TA, not me (Ken), as they coordinate the day-to-day workings of the course. Contact info for your TA is listed above.
Why does this website look the way that it does?
In order to make it available to as many people as possible, the course website was authored to be accessible and convenient.
All of the text on the course website is 2.5 times standard size in font recommended as an option for print disabilities. In order to ensure high contrast, all fonts are black and appear against a solid white background to be helpful for individuals with so-called color vision deficiency. Link text is black, rather than a separate color (in order to distinguish links, they are underlined, which, in order to avoid any confusion, is a text stye not otherwise used on this site).
The course website is also designed to work well with modern browser extensions (such as developed for Chrome), like Font Changer, which allow users to view the site text in different sizes and in specialized fonts, such as Open Dyslexic.
At the risk of using a little jargon, by using best HTML backend practices, the course website is optimized to work with screen readers, like NVDA, JAWS, Apple’s VoiceOver, and Android Talkback, which can read it aloud.
Are some of these the same documentaries that we watch in English 23?
In fact, they are. In both Eng 22 and Eng 23 (“The Climate Crisis: What it is and what each of us can do about it”) everyone watches documentaries on a variety of topics. So that we would have one film per week of the quarter, I put together a list of my top 10 documentaries, which I require everyone in English 22 and English 23 to watch and comment upon. Does this mean that you will be watching the same films all over again in English 22 if you already had Eng 23?
No, as I have an alternate list of 10 more films for you to watch! In other words, if you have already had Eng 23, by the end of this course (Eng 22) you will have watched 20 different documentaries. In the process, your understanding of a variety of issues will hopefully deepen.
Let’s take food systems as an example. The primary documentary on this topic is Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, which explores the environmental and climate implications of a plant-based diet. The alternate documentary is Wasted! The Story Of Food Waste, which takes up the issue of food waste, both in the US and globally. Interestingly, everyone switching to plant-based diets would not make as big a dent in the climate crisis as eliminating food waste would. Since Wasted! addresses the other half of the food systems problem with respect to the climate crisis, having watched it and Cowspiracy together would give you a particularly good handle on the topic.
If you have not taken English 23 but find some of the alternate films intriguing, feel free to watch them along with the primary 10!
Couldn’t I skip watching the documentaries and doing the readings and get someone (or an AI like ChatGPT) to do the comments for me?
Perhaps, but this would be a recipe for disaster, as you will be tested on all of the readings and documentaries on the midterm and final exams.
After every exam, some people inevitably contact their TAs because they are disappointment with their grades. When they systematically go through questions that they got wrong with their TAs, they find that a surprising number of them are on the readings and films. Suggesting that they may well have not read or watched carefully – or at all. When reviewing Gauchocast Analytics (which allows me to see viewing habits for individual students), I discovered – not surprisingly – that there is a direct correlation between people who do not watch the documentaries in their entirety and people who do poorly on exam questions related to the films.
Reading a plot summary in lieu of watching a documentary is a recipe for disaster, as you will be questioned on specifics not covered in such summaries.
Even though the exam questions on the readings and documentaries can be specific, many people do well on the exams in Eng 22, Indeed, dozens of people will likely get an A+ for the class. Clearly, these people carefully did the readings and attentively watched the films. They likely took notes – perhaps extensive notes – even while watching the films.
So, since you are required to watch the videos and do the readings anyway, why not share your opinions? It is perfectly fine if you disagree with the reading, film, instructor, or your classmates.
Note that instructors can use a web crawler to look for repeated comments and phrases, as well as other inconsistencies, including stylistic, in comments. Similarly, as AIs (even advanced ones like ChatGPT, which use cutting-edge transformer architecture) are generally only capable of delivering largely vague observations – and you should always include specifics with your comments – these are also easy to detect.
Having someone else (or an AI) do your work is a form of academic dishonestly and will be immediately reported to UCSB’s Office of Judicial Affairs.
What role do the film comments serve, pedagogically?
One of the goals of this class, even though it is very large, is to encourage meaningful discussion among students. Hence, more than half of the time you will be responding directly to a classmate on YouTube.
What about inappropriate comments?
Because of a culture of anonymity, the Internet can sometimes be an unpleasant and nasty place. Please be not only thoughtful with your comments, but respectful as well, offering only the kind of constructive comments that you yourself would like to receive. Note that, as Ken’s YouTube talks on the documentaries are open to the public, there may be some comments that may not come from your classmates. If you encounter comments containing hate speech or otherwise threatening language, please email Ken or one of your TAs. Please also check out YouTube’s policies on reporting incidents of hate speech, harassment, or cyberbullying.
Do you teach anything other than English 22, 23, & 24?
Although I now only teach large lectures during the regular school year, in the summer I routinely teach two or three small (38-student) classes, which are on various aspects of the climate crisis.
Is UCSB located on ancestral land?
Yes. It is important to note that UCSB is located on unceded Indigenous Chumash ancestral lands and waters. In other words, the Chumash people, who were the first human inhabitants of this region of what has now become California, never legally signed away the land and waters on which UCSB was built. (UCSB is situated on a 1,000-acre promontory that juts out into the Pacific Ocean.)
Asking me to write a letter of recommendation.
Every year, a number of students in my large lectures (Eng 22, 23, and 24) ask me to write letters of recommendation on their behalf. Unfortunately, I regretfully must decline, as I am not in a position to write a strong letter for students in these courses.
More on why I decline to write rec letters for Eng 22, 23, & 24
In order to write a strong recommendation letter, it is necessary to know a student well. Even before uploading a rec letter, many portals will require the writer to complete a brief survey ranking factors like a student’s creativity, their problem-solving ability, leadership potential, task management skills, and so forth. Because Eng 22, 23, and 24 are so large, I unfortunately never get to know students well enough to be able to evaluate these things.
With respect to the letter itself, as I am an English professor, there is the expectation that I will focus on a student’s writing and a range of issues related to it (like creativity, research and organizational abilities, and so forth). The problem is that students in Eng 22, 23, and 24 (including the honors sections) do not produce any significant writing for me to evaluate. True, there are the online comments, but these are quite different from an extensive term paper or senior thesis, as they do not require, for example, any significant research.
Having spent three years as the Director of a graduate program, I have read many hundreds of recommendation letters. Without exception, the strongest letters are personal and detailed. For example, the letters reference specific projects, such as term papers, sometimes quoting directly from them.
In order to get a strong rec letter, the key is to develop a solid relationship with an instructor. Ideally, by taking two or more small courses where you work with them directly (rather than working with a TA), which will allow them to reference a range of material that you have produced, as well as your strengths.
How long should a comment be and what form should they take?
Your YouTube comment on the weekly documentary should be as long as necessary to make your point(s). A paragraph or two is generally sufficient. Please make specific references to the documentary in order to make clear that you have watched it in its entirety (and not just a trailer). The purpose of this assignment is to expose you to a range of thought-provoking material that can make a real difference in your life. Consequently, your comment should contain your thoughts and feelings on the material. It is perfectly fine to express an emotional response.
Here are three comments on the film The True Cost from a previous Eng 22 class. They should give you some idea of the comments that people make.
I thought I knew a fair amount about clothing factory workers and outsourcing when I began watching this film, but honestly I was blindsided. I had never really thought about where clothes go when people throw them away, and I’m ashamed that I did not realize the drastic impact on the environment the fashion industry has. My initial reaction was more on the emotional side as we were told stories and shown images of the hardships faced in the factories of Bangladesh. I was furious at the clothing companies for not trying harder to make sure the people they employed had a decent wage and safe conditions. I was mad at the factory owners for ignoring complaints and letting their desire for business overpower the welfare of the people. Mostly, I my heart ached for all of the people that had no other option but to work in such a place. As the movie progressed, however, I began to think more intellectually. I tried to think of ways that we could change or create laws to help those workers, ways to fix and maybe even change our economic system, and ways to make people care.
The film’s audience is definitely casual viewers because they are trying to get everyday people to start caring about other people and the environment that they could be unaware of. I think the film did a great job of communicating their message by highlighting personal stories to target people’s emotions, explaining the environmental impacts, and describing how our economy and consumerism plays an important role in the overall system. The film made me somewhat pessimistic because there are too many people in the world that simply do not care about these issues enough for the problems to be improved upon. I agree with Safia Minney, the founder and CEO of People Tree, when she said that change is coming, but we don’t know if it’ll be in time. For most of the people in the world to wake up and realize change needs to happen now, I think the situation will first need to get worse before it can get better. I would rate this movie 5/5 stars and definitely recommend it to friends and family because I think they did a fantastic job illustrating what needs to be fixed and how, and everyone needs to be educated on these things that happen around the world.
I felt that the documentary proved to be extremely effective in conveying its message regarding the monstrous effects of the clothing industry on not only the environment, but the welfare of impoverished laborers and the material-centered American psyche as well. Through the inclusion of several perspectives, including that of the underpaid factory workers in Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia, individuals working to change the the inhumane and wasteful nature of the industry, and those who refuse to see the countless negative impacts on human life, the film is able to argue its message without excluding conflicting perspectives. The most impactful way the film conveys its message to the audience is the way in which it captured the aw and painful emotions of the countless workers harmed by working in textile factories. As the majority of the film’s audience is likely American viewers with Netflix subscriptions, in allowing victims and laborers who work to produce cheap product share the the suffering and sacrifices they’ve endured, the consumers who perpetuate the system that is “fast fashion” see the direct effect on the environment and human life. In turn, a person who was once a casual viewer may now become inspired to be more aware of their spending habits. While I feel that their may be more viewers who are already concerned about the issue, as many casual viewers may not feel compelled to watch a documentary about the impacts of the clothing industry, I feel hopeful that the casual viewers who do watch it will feel the effects and become more aware of the issue.
I feel that the true power of this film lies in the emotional response it evokes from the viewer. In following the stories of a few individuals in Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia, I felt as though I could connect to some of laborers, not through experience, but rather in the sense that I was able to see their struggles through their own perspective, and realize that there are so many more real people just like them who work in inhumane conditions, without being paid enough to support their family. The film truly challenged me to be far more cautious in how much I spend on clothing, as I will now be thinking about the stories and individuals in the documentary. Along with this, I also found some information in the film to be quite surprising, such as the fact that only 10% of donated clothing is actually bought. I was completely unaware that the clothing that isn’t bought after being donated is sent in bulk to countries like Haiti, causing their textile and clothing production industry to plummet. Though the film didn’t spend a great deal of time on this issue, it really stuck with me as I always felt I was contributing to society in a positive way by donating clothing, yet I now feel conflicted as to whether the positive outweighs the negative
I can say with confidence that this film has impacted my attitude towards buying clothing. While I have a tendency to want to buy new clothing every few months as the seasons change, I will now truly think about whether or not I need to, and if so, I’ll be more cautious in regards to where I buy from. However, at the same time this film has instilled a small amount of fear in my mind as well. During the film, one interviewee made the point that while the economy and the fashion industry is perpetually expanding, the earth and it’s resources are not limitless. As we become more wasteful each year with extremely finite resources, I feel that one small thing I can do is recommend this film to friends and family with the hope that it will impact them as well. I rate this film four out of five stars as the message that it is conveying to viewers is one that is often overlooked, when in reality it is so important that it deserves to gain recognition and momentum.
I thought that the film was effective at communicating its subject. The movie achieves this, by showing the audience various first-hand perspectives of people who work for and within the fast fashion industry as well as expert opinions on the globalized system. Through the perspectives of workers in developing countries India, we can see the deterioration of those societies’ physical health (birth defects, disease, cancer), local environments, and mental health (farmer suicides). The problems were around the world, from developing countries to US soil. The film begins from the casual view of branding and fast fashion but quickly goes deeper into the problems directly linked to the industry. The alternating imagery of model shoots and luxury to poverty and environmental destruction emphasizes the contrast between what consumers see and the reality of the situation.
I think that the film’s audience is targeted toward casual viewers, since the documentary not only broadly highlights the macro issues of fast fashion and monopolizing and outsourcing of production, but delves into the lives of the people of developing countries who have to directly deal with the effects of capitalism. Having not known much about fast fashion and it’s negative effects before seeing this movie, I feel like it was very informative and brought up surprising things I never knew before.
At first, I thought that the film would be boring, but I actually found myself interested while watching it. My response was primarily intellectual at first, as I wondered how the production of my clothes is significant at all, but the tragic images from the Rana Plaza disaster and protests in Cambodia made me emotional. The film made me empathize with the victims of the collapse and riot brutality. I was also saddened by the Indian farmers spraying pesticide on their crops with no face masks or protection whatsoever. It made me think about all of the labels I usually do not give much thought into on my clothes, such as “Made in Vietnam,” China, India, Honduras, etc. The shirts may have been produced at incalculable externalities, even the blood of workers, human beings, in those countries.
I learned a lot about the fast fashion industry and how privileged consumers like me, take even our clothes for granted. I learned that this industry is second to the oil industry in emissions. I feel a bit more guilty about UNIQLO being my favorite place to shop for clothing now. The film changed my attitudes about which clothes to buy. I should be buying clothes for long-term use and spend more of my money on fashion brands that are more ethical and open about their production methods. After watching it, I feel pessimistic, because if such large industries have so much power and influence on human health and the well-being of our planet, there needs to be drastic institutional change, since capitalism is such a big part of modern society. I disagreed with Richard Wolff, as he was criticizing capitalism, but I do accept the fact that it essentially prioritizes profit over humanity.
If I were to rate the film, I would give it 4 stars out of 5. It is likely that I would recommend it to a friend, especially if they are into fashion like I am, or care about issues of environmental, social, or even political nature. It is very much worth at least knowing about the fashion industry and its influence on today’s world.