ECOLIT: Reading and Writing the Landscape

English 380/HNR X380

Where is the literature which gives expression to Nature? He would be a poet who could impress the winds and streams into his service, to speak for him ...whose words were so true, and fresh, and natural that they would appear to expand like the buds at the approach of spring, though they lay half smothered between two musty leaves in a library... . (Henry David Thoreau)

Winter 2006 Schedule
Section 01: MW 10:10-12:00
Instructor: Steven Marx
phone: 756-2411
Office: 47-25E (Faculty Office Building)
Office hours: MW 8:10-9:00; 4:10-5:00
Week Date Topic Primary Texts
[required and due; please print and bring to class]

Secondary Texts and other Resources

[dates assigned and due]
Landscape Natural History Topics 
I 1/4

The Ancient Pastoral Tradition

Canned Heat

Snapshots from the end of the Road

Bible, Genesis 1
Song of Songs

Ovid, The golden Age[pdf]

Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide, preface, introduction, Places, The Arts chapters


Instructor's Nature writing

Introduction to Ecocriticism

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

Ecolit Journal 2001

Ecolit Journal 2003

Ecolit Journal 2004

OED--find any word

Get class email

Start Ecolog


  Cal Poly Land

II 1/9 Hike

Virgil, Georgics[pdf]

notes on Georgics      

Renaissance Pastoral

Invitation songs

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

Copy and Imitation Exercise assigned


III 1/16

Romanticism and Nature 

Schubert, Die Schoene Muellerin

Paintings by Constable and Bierstadt


Wordsworth , selected poems[pdf]

Thoreau, "Walking" abridged[pdf]


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


Ecocrit Paper assigned


IV 1/23

Thoreau at Walden

Walden pilgrimage

Thoreau: Walden



Copy and Imitation Exercise due

signup for conference

  Study of The Environmental Imagination by Laurence Buell


lecture notes

"The Ponds," "Brute Neighbors", "Spring"

reading notes

conference schedule

V 1/30

John Muir in the Sierras

reading exercise

John Muir: The Mountains of California
Chapter 1 [pdf]
Chapter 2
Chapter 10
Chapter 13 [pdf]

Explore John Muir Exhibit website


sample journal entries    
  2/1 John Muir outdoors Geology and Climate Chapters in Field Guide  

Ecocritical Essaydue

Hike to Rockslide Ridge.



VI 2/6

Mary Austin in the Desert

Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain



lecture notes First Draft of Final Essay assigned    

Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain

GWR in class

Austin exercise

Ceriso numbered

VII 2/13 Aldo Leopold Sand County Almanac, "The Almanac," xvii-98 "The Land Ethic" 237-264   rewrites of ecocritical essay due    
  2/15 Berry in Kentucky

Wendell Berry Selected readings

VIII 2/20


Map of Farm Hike; Meet at Crops Unit at 10:10 a.m.


Agriculture and Stewardship chapters in Field Guide

  Personal essay --first draft due 

Tour of Campus Farms


Nature, Technology and Agriculture
  2/22 Gary Snyder poems by Gary Snyder        
IX 2/27

Gary Snyder



Mary Oliver


poems by Mary Oliver        
X 3/6

Andy Goldsworthy,Rivers and Tides

Film and Discussion   Journal submission 2 due    
  3/8 Conclusion
Exam Prep
    Personal essay --final draft due    
Final Exam 








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. Required texts include: 1) Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide (available only at El Corral Bookstore) 2)Thoreau Walden, 3)Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain, 4)Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac (the last three available at Aida's), and several texts to be downloaded and printed from this website and kept in a binder.

Helpful suggestions for reading large documents online

Workload and Grading

Writing assignments include weblogs, including copy and imitation of a primary text, a critical analysis of nature writing and one personal ecoliterary essay.

Assignment percent of grade # words
Journal [at least two entries per week, weeks II-IX, one entry in week I] 30 2400
Copy-Imitation 10 250
Ecocritical essay 15 750
Personal essay: final draft 25 1250
Final Exam 20 500

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.