Romanticism, Nature, Ecology Syllabus

Romanticism, Nature, Ecology

Dr. Gary Harrison
Department of English
University of New Mexico

           This colloquium will study the relationship between Romantic literature and the environment. Drawing upon a few key theoretical and literary works from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as well as from key texts in contemporary ecological literary criticism, environmental literature, and philosophy, we will ask what constitutes environmental literature, how such literature shapes environmental consciousness and action, and how Romantic perspectives question the human place in the world, the relationship between human perception and the natural world, and our co-existence as human beings in the larger living organism of the earth.  Rather than turn to Romanticism as a guide to current environmental practices, our interest will be in Romanticism as a cultural discourse that opens up conceptual, critical and poetic investigations about our  relationship to the environment and as a site for the emergence of ecopoetics.   As we move through our readings, we will also attend to the way Romantic discourse has helped to shape the discursive repertoire of environmental practices and perceptions today.  Readings will include poetry by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlotte Smith, and John Clare; non-fiction prose by Jean Jacques Rousseau and Dorothy Wordsworth; and philosophical, historical, and critical essays by Friedrich Schiller, Martin Heidegger, Aldo Leopold, Michel Serres, Donald Worster, and others.  Lawrence Buell’s The Environmental Imagination will serve as a primary source for questions and concepts about environmental literature and ecocentrism that we will apply to our readings in British Romanticism; that book’s focus primarily upon American literature will create a cultural dissonance that should unsettle our perspective on British Romantic literature, providing a unique critical purchase on the history of British environmental literature, while keeping us in sight of the concurrent history of American environmental literature.

Requirements will include writing several short exploratory essays; presenting a summary of, and leading discussion on, at least two of the critical works assigned for each day; and writing an article-length final paper, a synopsis of which you will present on the last day of class.   Topics for your papers and presentations may include literary, scientific or philosophical works; contemporary literary criticism and theory;  key texts in the history of ecological thought, ecocriticism, environmental ethics, or environmental perception; and the writers we will be discussing.  You should confirm your final paper topic with me on or before the end of week twelve. 

Required Texts:
Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination. The Belknap Press,  1995.
Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry into Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Ed. Adam Phillips.  Oxford U P, 1998.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Selected Poems. Ed. H. J. Jackson. Oxford U P, 1985.
Descartes, René.  Discourse on Method and Meditations. Trans. Elizabeth S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross. Dover, 2003.
Robinson, Eric and David Powell, eds. John Clare. Oxford Authors. Oxford U P, 1984.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques.  The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Trans. Maurice Cranston. Penguin, 1985.
-----.  Reveries of the Solitary Walker.  Trans. Peter France.  Penguin Classics, 1979.
Serres, Michel. The Natural Contract.  Trans. Elizabeth MacArthur & William Paulson.  Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1995.
Wordsworth, Dorothy.  Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. Ed. Mary Moorman.  1958; rpt. Oxford: Oxford U P, 1971.
Wordsworth, William.  Selected Poems.  Ed. John O. Hayden.  New York: Penguin, 1994.
Recommended Texts:
Bate, Jonathan.  The Song of the Earth. Harvard U P, 2000.
McKusick, James C. Green Writing. St. Martins Press, 2000.


Unit I: Introduction and Outline of Problem
Week 1
T: Introduction; Michel Serres, “War, Peace,” (Chapter 1, Natural Contract)
R: Serres, “Natural Contract” (Chapter 2, Natural Contract)
Critical Works:
Jonathan Bate, “Going, Going” (Chapter 1, Song of the Earth)
Lawrence Buell, “Introduction” to Environmental Imagination
James McKusick, Introduction to Green Writing

Unit II:  Nature and Culture
Week 2
T: Bacon, The New Atlantis
R: Descartes, Discourse on Method; from Meditations  I & II
Critical Works:
Carolyn Merchant, “Dominion Over Nature,” (Chapter 7, Death of Nature)
Donald Worster, “The Empire of Reason” (Chapter 2, Nature’s Economy)
Week 3
T: Diderot, Supplement to Bougainville’s Travels
R: Rousseau, “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality”
Critical Works:
Jonathan Bate, “The State of Nature” (Chapter 2, Song of the Earth)
Hayden White, “The Forms of Wildness”

Unit III: Romantic Aesthetics and Nature
Week 4 The Beautiful and Picturesque
T: Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into our Ideas on the Sublime and the Beautiful, Parts I and III; Kant, from Critique of Judgment, Part One, First Book, 1 – 13, 17
R: Gilpin, from Three Essays on the Picturesque
Critical Works:
Jonathan Bate, “The Picturesque Environment” (Chapter 5, Song of the Earth)
Walker Percy, “The Loss of the Creature”
Week 5 The Sublime
T: Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into our Ideas on the Sublime and the Beautiful, Part II
R: Kant, from Critique of Judgment, Part One, Second Book, 23 – 29
Critical Works:
Arnold Berleant, “The Aesthetics of Art and Nature”
Christopher Hitt, “Toward an Ecological Sublime”
Week 6
T: Schiller, On the Naïve and Sentimental
R: Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads; Coleridge, from Chapters 4, 13, 14 of Biographia Literaria; from Lectures on Shakespeare “Mechanic and Organic”
Critical Works:
Lawrence Buell, “Representing the Environment” (Chapter 3, Environmental Imagination)
Neal Evernden, “Talking about the Mountain” (Chapter 1, Natural Alien)

Unit IV: Romanticism, Nature, Ecology
Week 7
T: Malthus, from Essay on Population (Chapters 1 and 2)
R: Wordsworth, “Lines Written a  Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”
Critical Works:
Catherine Gallagher, "The Body Versus the Social Body in the Works of Thomas
Malthus and Henry Mayhew." Representations 14 (Spring 1986): 83-106.
Buell, “Environmental Apocalypticism” (Chapter 9, Environmental Imagination)
Week 8 Break
Week 9
T:  Wordsworth, “Expostulation and Reply,” “The Tables Turned,” “Lines, Written at a Small Distance from My House,” “Lines Written in Early Spring,” “The world is too much with us,” “I wandered lonely as a cloud,”  “To a Butterfly”; “It is a beauteous Evening, calm and free,” “To the Cuckoo”
R: Wordsworth, “Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree,” “A slumber did my spirit seal,” “She dwelt among untrodden ways,”  “Strange fits of passion I have known,” “Lucy Gray”
Critical Works:
Buell, “Pastoral Ideology” (Chapter 1, Environmental Imagination)
Hartman, “Wordsworth, Inscriptions and Romantic Nature Poetry”
Week 10
T: Burns, “To a Mouse”; Coleridge, “Sonnet: To the River Otter,” “To a Young Ass,” “The Eolian Harp,” “Frost at Midnight,” “This Lime Tree Bower My Prison”; Clare, “The Mouses Nest”
R: Coleridge,“The Nightingale,” “Dejection: An Ode”; Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”
Critical Works:
Kurt Fosso, "Sweet Influences": Human/Animal Difference and Social Cohesion in Wordsworth and Coleridge, 1794-1806.”
McKusick, “Coleridge and the Economy of Nature’ (Chapter 1, Green Writing)
Week 11
T: Wordsworth, “Home at Grasmere,”  “Michael”
R: Wordsworth, The Prelude, Books 1-2, 4, 6
Critical Works:
Buell, “Place” (Chapter 8, Environmental Imagination)
Buell, “New World Dreams and Environmental Actualities” (Chapter 2, Environmental Imagination)
Week 12
T: Wordsworth, Prelude, Books 7, 8, 14
R: Charlotte Smith, Beachy Head
Critical Works
Geoffrey Hartman, “The Romance of Nature and the Negative Way”
Anne Mellor, “Domesticating the Sublime” (Chapter 5, Romanticism and Gender)
Week 13
T:  Dorothy Wordsworth, “Floating Island at Hawkeshead”; Journals
R:  Wordsworth, Journals
Critical Works
Anne Mellor, “Writing the Self/Self Writing” (Chapter 7, Romanticism and Gender)
Anne Wallace, “Inhabited Solitudes: Dorothy Wordsworth’s Domesticating
Week 14
T: Wordsworth, “Nutting”
R: Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
Critical Works
Aldo Leopold, “Thinking Like a Mountain”
Stanley Cavell, “In Quest of the Ordinary”
Week 15
T: John Clare, “The Peasant Poet,” “Helpstone,” “Helpston Green,” Partridge Coveys,”
The Land Rail”
R: Clare, “To a Fallen Elm,”  “The Mores,” “Emmonsales Heath”
Critical Works
Jonathan Bate, “What are Poets For” (Chapter 9, Song of the Earth)
Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking”
Week 16
T: Clare, “The Lamentations of Round Oak Waters,” “The Lament of Swordy Well”
R: Serres, “Science, Law” & “Casting Off” (Chapters 3 and 4, Natural Contract)
Critical Works:
Heidegger, “The Thing”
Week 17
Final Examination Week


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