English 380--ECOLIT: Reading and Writing the Landscape

Section 01: WF 4:10-6:00 PM in 22-313
Instructor: Steven Marx
phone: 756-2411
Office: 47-25E (Faculty Office Building)
Office hours: MWF: 10:50-12:00noon

Spring 2001 Schedule

[course poster]
WeekDateTopicPrimary Texts
[please print and bring to class]
Secondary TextsWritingLandscapeNatural History Topics 

The Ancient Pastoral Tradition

Canned Heat

Bible, Genesis 1
Song of Songs

Virgil, Eclogue 1

Ovid, The golden Age

Instructor's Nature writing

Introduction to Ecocriticism

Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment[ASLE]

Get class email

Start Journal


 Cal Poly Land

 4/6Renaissance Pastoral

Marlowe, "The Passionate Shepherd",
Ralegh, "The Nymph's Reply"
Shakespeare, Duke Senior's speech
John Milton, The Creation, from Paradise Lost 7. 210-534
Andrew Marvell, "The Garden"

"The Shepherd's Philosophy"

Youth Against Age


Class meets at Gate of Poly Canyon, walks to hillside viewpoint.

Optional campout

Campus Farm

Poly Canyon


Romanticism and Nature 

lecture notes

Wordsworth , selected poems
"April," from John Clare, The Shepherd's Calender
Schubert, Die Schoene Muellerin

Emerson: Nature [read Introduction, chapter 1 and chapter 3]

OED--find any word

Copy and Imitation Exercise assigned

Sign up for journal conference in class [schedule]

 4/13 Read Plant Communities in Poly Canyon Revisited and as much as possible about the specific communities Journal 1 conferences begin

Lower Poly Canyon

Optional campout

Plant Communities, a tour led by Professor VL Holland, chair Biology Dept.

III4/18Walking in Spring

Susan Fenimore Cooper:Rural Hours "Spring"

Thoreau, "Walking"
[in three parts]

Reading Notes



More on Journals

Ecocrit Paper Topics

 Class Journal Samples
 4/20 Birds found near Cal Poly CampusLaurence Buell, The Environmental Imagination, summarizedCopy and Imitation Exercise due  
IV4/25Thoreau at Walden

Thoreau: Walden
read "Sounds," "The Ponds," "Brute Neighbors", "Spring"

reading notes

Explore Thoreau website and links, especially, "Walden Express"

Journal 2 [group 1]

 4/27   Journal 2 [group 2]

Poly Mountain treesit


Flora and Fauna
V5/2Muir in the Sierras

John Muir: The Mountains of California
Chapters 1, 2, 3, 10, 13


Explore John Muir Exhibit websiteJournal 2 [group 3]  

Ecocritical Essay

Hike to Rockslide Ridge. Leave from Arboretum entrance at 4:10 sharp




Mary Austin in the Desert

Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain

[complete text]


 On Essay writing  

Peterson Ranch Poly Canyon--meet at Quarry Road 4PM


History, Geology, Archaeology

VII5/16Troutman in San Luis ObispoBaxter Troutman, The Spirit of the Valley pp 1-57    
 5/18  Journal Samples 2Personal essay --first draft 

presentation on landscape aesthetics by Professor Dale Sutliff in multimedia room of Library reference Room

VIII5/23Berry in Kentucky

Wendell Berry Selected readings

Natural Capitalism chapter 10

 5/25    Tour of Campus Farms [Gallery]Nature, Technology and Agriculture
IX5/30Troutman in San Luis ObispoBaxter Troutman, The Spirit of the Valley pp 59-124Outline of book pictures 
 6/1   Journal submission 3

Pennington canyon


Oak woodland

Exam Prep

 6/8Meet at Marx's house--265 Albert [how to get there]  Personal essay --final draft  
Final Exam 6/13
sample exam essays   Ecolit Journal [class publication--pdf file]  

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

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

Texts include primary and secondary works of Ecoliterature as well as sections of the Cal Poly Land Website on the natural history of this place.

Writing assignments include journals, copyings and imitations of primary texts, a critical analysis of nature writing and two personal ecoliterary essays, one primarily descriptive and explanatory, the other more reflective and persuasive.

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.

The Wednesday class includes lectures about the major writers studied and their historical and cultural context, including relevant literary and scientific traditions of nature writing. It also includes analysis of the artistry that heightens enjoyment of their work and provides models for student work. Each Wednesday class will contain discussion of ethical, social, and scientific controversies touched upon in the assigned readings.

The Friday class involves excursions by foot or van to the kinds of landscapes on the Cal Poly campus represented and responded to in the literary texts. These include grassland, creeks and ponds, and mountaintops. Like the readings, each week's excursion emphasizes a distinct topic in natural history like climate, geology, or archaeology, and a distinct ecological system or community like chapparel, marsh or oak woodland. Information about these specific places will be provided by the appropriate section of the Cal Poly Land website. In addition to talks at stopping points by the instructor and guest lecturers, students will divide into small groups and share their "readings" of landscape features with one another.


Assignmentpercent of grade# words
Journal 10--
Copy and Imitation Exercise10500
Ecocritical essay15750
Journal 210--
Personal essay: first draft0750
Personal essay: final draft301250
Journal 3 15 
Final Exam  


Graduate Writing Requirement (GWR)


  • Late papers are penalized one full grade for each class session's delay unless a postponement is granted by the instructor in advance.
  • Attendance is not optional. Each unexcused absence beyond two lowers the grade by one half letter; seven or more unexcused absences result in no credit. Three unexcused latenesses count for one absence. Certified medical absences or job interviews are not counted in these totals and are the only reason for makeups .
  • Deliberate plagiarism or other forms of cheating result in a failing grade and referral to the dean. Students are responsible for understanding the definition of plagiarism. Please consult the instructor if this linked page on the subject doesn't make it clear to you.