ECOLIT: Reading and Writing the Landscape

English 380

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)

Spring 2009 Schedule

Section 01 Bldg. 10--221 ThTh 4:10-6:00 p.m.
Instructor: Steven Marx
Office: 47-25E (Faculty Office Building)
Office hours: MW 2-3:30
Week Date Topic Primary Texts
[required and due; if online, please print and bring to class]

Secondary Texts and other Resources

[dates assigned and due]
I 4/2

The Ancient Pastoral Tradition

Canned Heat

Snapshots from the end of the Road

Bible, Genesis 1
Song of Songs

Psalm 19[pdf]

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]
Orion magazine

Ecolit Journal 2001

Cal Poly Land

Start Ecolog


II 4/7

Hike to Poly Canyon

Meet at Poly Canyon gate unless it's actually raining. Dress warm. Bring texts and writing journal.

Virgil, Georgics[pdf]

Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide, vegetation chapter

"God and Nature: The Poet's Vision"

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"




III 4/14

Romanticism and Nature 


Schubert, Die Schoene Muellerin

Paintings by Constable and Bierstadt


Wordsworth , selected poems[pdf]

Emerson, selections from "Nature"

Susan Fenimore Cooper: Selections from Rural Hours "Spring"




quiz on readings





Hike up Poly Mountain

Thoreau, "Walking" abridged[pdf]


Explore Thoreau website and links, especially, "Walden Express"  
IV 4/21

Thoreau at Walden

Walden pilgrimage

lecture notes




Copy and Imitation Exercise due

signup for conference

sample journal entries(2009)


  4/23 Thoreau at Walden "Economy" complete (parts 1-e)    
V 4/28

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



John Muir outdoors

Hike to Rockslide Ridge.


Meet at 4:10 at the Horticulture Unit, end of Via Carta, location 48 on this map

Geology and Climate Chapters in Field Guide    
VI 5/5 Mary Austin in the Desert

Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain


lecture notes



Personal Essay assigned
  5/7 Aldo Leopold in Wisconsin

Stenner Canyon Hike--meet at Serrano Ranch barn at end of Stenner Creek Road--"BARN" on Great Loop Map, p. 226 of Field Guide.

Take Highland toward Hwy1, turn right on Mt. Bishop, by Crops Unit, go to end, turn right on Stenner Road and continue to end of road. Dont take right fork to Stenner Ranch.

Sand County Almanac,"The Land Ethic" 237-264

lecture notes  
VII 5/12

Aldo Leopold in Wisconsin



Sand County Almanac, "The Almanac," Part 1, The Almanac   Midterm/GWR in class
  5/14 Wendell Berry in Kentucky

Wendell Berry Selected readings

  quiz on Aldo Leopold
VIII 5/18       First draft of Personal essay by email 6:00 a.m. due

Wendell Berry in Kentucky

Farm Hike--meet at Crops Unit at 4:10 p.m.

Agriculture and Stewardship chapters in Field Guide


Barbara Kingsolver in Kentucky

Gary Snyder


Prodigal Summer pp.1-150

poems by Gary Snyder

Kingsolver notes  
IX 5/26

Barbara Kingsolver in Kentucky

Gary Snyder


Prodigal Summer pp.150-325

poems by Gary Snyder

Kingsolver notes (updated) quiz

Barbara Kingsolver in Kentucky

Mary Oliver in New England

Prodigal Summer pp.325-end

poems by Mary Oliver

X 6/2

Mary Oliver in New England

Cheda Ranch Hike--meet at parking area under the railroad trestle at Stenner Creek Road.

How to get there.


poems by Mary Oliver   Journals due

San Luis Obispo Plein Air Poets: Poems for Endangered Places

Meet at Leaning Pine Arboretum in the Environmental Horticulture Unit

Exam Prep

selections from poems for endangered places    
XI 6/9 at 6:00 p.m.       Final draft of Personal Essay due
Final Exam 

6/11 7:10-10:00 pm




  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: 1) Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide (available only at El Corral Bookstore) 2)Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac , Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer, and several texts to be downloaded from this website, printed and kept in a binder.

Helpful suggestions for reading large documents online

Workload and Grading

Writing assignments include a journal or weblog, a critical analysis of nature writing, a personal ecoliterary essay, quizzes and exams.

Assignment percent of grade # words
Journal [ two entries per week, one personal, one a guided response to readings]



Copy and Imitation exercise 10 250
Midterm Exam 15 500
Personal essay: final draft 22.5 1250
Quizzes 15  
Final Exam 15 500

Graduate Writing Requirement (GWR)


  • All written work should be submitted by email as Microsoft word attachments saved in the .doc, not the .docx format. The filename should include your last name and the assignment title, for example: "marxcopyimitation.doc" It will be returned with comments and corrections most easily readable in Page Layout View
  • 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.