Reading and Writing the Landscape

English 380 (4 Units GE C3 and GWR) Steven Marx, Instructor

This is a new course about nature writing or "ecoliterature," an ancient literary genre that has achieved recent prominence. The course balances humanities and science, art and nature, reading and writing, talking and walking.

Subject matter covers great works of environmental literature and their traditions, the ecology of Cal Poly's ten thousand acres, and practical methods of observation and expression.

Readings include works by Virgil, Milton, Blake, Wordsworth, Susan Cooper, Thoreau, Muir, Terry Tempest Williams, and Baxter Troutman, whose Cal Poly M.A. thesis in Biology, Spirit of the Valley, is published by Sierra Club Books. The developing Cal Poly Land website-- also is a course text.

Writing assignments consist of journals, imitations of literary texts, a critical analysis of nature writing and two personal ecoliterary essays.

The class meets on Wednesday and Friday late afternoons during Spring Quarter. The Wednesday class takes place indoors. The Friday class includes a walk to an appropriate site on Cal Poly Land.

UP! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.


Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

He, too, is no mean preacher:
And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

Wm. Wordsworth, "The Tables Turned"

Course Syllabus
Course Description

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