Eng 236, Fall 2015

Theories of Literature and the Environment

Environmental criticism, also known as ecocriticism and “green” criticism (especially in the UK), is a rapidly emerging field of literary study that will be crucially important in upcoming decades, especially as our present environmental crisis unfortunately worsens. In the first half of this course we will explore how the relationship between human beings and the environment has been imagined in the West, especially as it appears in the works of Heraclitus, Anaximander, Thales, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Epictetus, Aurelius, Augustine, Aquinas, Montaigne, Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, Hegel, Marx, Darwin, James, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Arendt, Levinas, Foucault, Patocka, Derrida, and Agamben. Withal, we will be considering how these attitudes toward the environment influenced writers such as Theocritus, Virgil, Shakespeare, Milton, Thomson, Wordsworth, Thoreau, and so forth. The second half of the course will consider works from modern ecocritics (beginning in the 1960s and ’70s with Lynn White Jr., Leo Marx, Carolyn Merchant, Keith Thomas, and Raymond Williams, and ending with the ongoing explosion of interest in the field in the 21st century) with an eye to directly applying this theory to the reading of texts.

“Please rate the overall quality of the instructor’s teaching”

Average rating: 4.7 of 5 (♣♣♣♣♣ Excellent; ♣♣♣♣ Very Good; ♣♣♣ Good; ♣♣ Fair; ♣ Poor)

♣♣♣♣♣ Great intro to the field and Ken was extremely knowledgeable and accessible. Very glad I took this course during my grad career here. Perhaps a few less readings, just because there were some that got cut off- maybe more of a representative sampling?

♣♣♣♣♣ This is my first time to study about the Environmental critique, Ken’s explanation on them are very helpful for me to get knowledge about them. Thank you!

♣♣♣♣♣ Completely amazed with Professor Hiltner’s breadth of knowledge and ability to further develop every comment or insight provided. Course was a bit daunting at times but very informative.

♣♣♣♣♣ Excellent command of the ecocritical landscape and of the history of literary criticism. Thoughtful, truly integrates student observation into his own responses. All in all a very generous scholar.

♣♣♣♣ Excellent course – great readings and discussion. In the future, I would want fewer readings (mainly to give us time to thoroughly discuss all of them, rather than rushing through them during class) and slightly more organization/structure to the lectures/discussions. Thank you!

♣♣♣♣ The breadth and scope and organization of this course make it very exciting, and Dr. Hiltner is a supportive and at times awe-inspiring seminar leader, but depth was unfortunately sacrificed for mastery. The best version of this course, I believe, would cut the reading load by one third, and demand more engagement with individual readings.