Lit History: Literature and Environment

Literature and the Environment:

This course takes as its subject the relationship between literary texts and the environment. We will be approaching this relationship with the critical tools of Ecocriticism, a field of scholarship concerned with the environmental implications of literary texts, particularly in relation to our current environmental crisis. This will include considerations of human as well as nonhuman contexts. While the majority of ecocritical studies are centered on the western literary tradition, we will be engaging with texts from a variety of cultures, as the questions which Ecocriticism raises in light of the Anthropocene affect all of humanity. We will examine texts from ancient to modern in an attempt to trace the developing relationship between humanity and the nonhuman world, in a variety of cultural traditions. Through this we will be able to consider our own responses to our present ecological crisis with greater depth and understanding.

This course will include a fair amount of reading and writing, including secondary as well as primary texts. Our group presentation will involve creating a literary response to a particular ecological problem, preferably one that affects Hawai‘i. The course will include two short essays (1,000 words each) and one final research essay (2,000 words), which will require you to analyze two texts from two cultural traditions with the tools of Ecocriticism.


Required Texts:

  1. The Poetic Edda, ed. C. Larrington (Oxford University Press, 2008).
  2. Snow Country, Y. Kawabat, trans. E. G. Seidensticker (Vintage, 1996).
  3. The Kojiki: An Account of Ancient Matters, O no Yasumaro, trans. G. Heldt (Columbia University Press, 2014).
  4. The Travels of Marco Polo, ed. P.Harris, trans. W. Marsden (Everyman’s Library, Reprint edition, 2008).
  5. Taketori Monogatari: The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter, M. Wada, com. and nt. by E. Plain (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014).
  6. Outside, B. Lopez (Trinity University Press, 2014).
  7. Landmarks, R. Macfarlane (Penguin Books; Reprint edition, 2016).
  8. The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment, Timothy Clark (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Other texts will be in the Coursepack, available as a pdf on Laulima.