Eng 122LE, Summer 2016

Introduction to Literature and the Environment

This course is an environmental survey of Western literature. In much the same way that feminist critics are interested in literary representations of gender and women, environmental critics explore how nature and the natural world are imagined through literary texts. 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 our contemporary 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 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 Epic of Gilgamesh, this course will explore the often-ignored literary history of the natural world.


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

Average rating: 4.6 of 5 (♣♣♣♣♣ Excellent; ♣♣♣♣ Very Good; ♣♣♣ Good; ♣♣ Fair; ♣ Poor)

♣♣♣♣♣ Really enjoyed this class. Professor Hiltner was organized and encouraged thought for me personally as well as in class discussions. The ancient scope of the class provided excellent perspective on why and how we think what we think about our relationship with nature today.

♣♣♣♣♣ Professor Hiltner’s dedication to environmental literature and the humanities makes the class truly informative and eye-opening.

♣♣♣♣♣ This was one of the most interesting and insightful classes I have ever taken. It made me think about the environment on such a deeper and different level. Thank you SO much!

♣♣♣♣♣ One of the more interesting classes I have taken. I really enjoyed the content and presentation style. More discussion opportunities could have improved the overall experience but in general a great class!

♣♣♣♣♣ Great lecturer and is particularly good at discussing questions that students may have. Only negative comment would be about the reader—it’s expensive and massive so it’s too difficult to bring to class (versus if it was broken up into individual books) and does not allow for students to buy used books. I’d prefer a few physical books with a slimmer reader.

♣♣♣♣♣ Great professor, material was very clear and interesting to dive into.

♣♣♣♣♣ Professor Hiltner was intelligent and engaging. He brought up questions that I had never before considered.

♣♣♣♣♣ Love the course content and lectures. Very interesting and insightful information, and I have definitely learned a lot. One critique I have is that lecture slides are really long (text heavy) and are moved through quickly, often before I have time to write it down. Thanks!

♣♣♣♣♣ PowerPoint is highly organized and flows well, but the slides are very word dense. This is a catch 22 because I want to write down all of the information but usually can’t. However, it forces me to actually listen to what Professor Hiltner is saying. Overall, I learned a lot and loved all the connections between this class and my major.

♣♣♣♣♣ Awesome course material. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the origins of environmental degradation and why people suck. Ken is very eloquent and interesting. Coming to lecture is a must, but enjoyable.

♣♣♣♣♣ Coolest professor ever.

♣♣♣♣♣ Very interesting.

♣♣♣♣ Liked the way class was taught but it was a bit too much for the class to be squeezed into a summer session. Lots of straight lecture.

♣♣♣♣ You seem like a good instructor. I am just not very interested in this class.