English 380--ECOLIT: Reading and Writing the Landscape
Instructor: Steven Marx

Course Content

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 and conventions, 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 listed in the schedule below, 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.

Modes of Instruction

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.

Methods of Assessment and the Percentage of the Course Grade that Each is Worth

Assignmentpercent of grade# words
Journal 15--
Copy and Imitation Exercise10500
Analytical essay15750
Journal 210--
Personal essay 1--descriptive201000
Personal essay 2--reflective and persuasive201000
Final Exam