Introduction to Literature: Genre: Literature & Environmental Activism

Instructor: Joana O’Steen

Time: TR 13:30-14:45


When we think of environmental activism, we tend to imagine engaging in something active, like a protest or march, and something that involves signs with catchy slogans or images of sad animals. When we think of literature, on the other hand, we often connect it more to arts than to action and view words on the page as something static. In this writing-intensive class, we will look at the intersection of the two and examine how literature can be linked with action in the form of activist writing. We will explore how writers infuse their words with power to make real change happen. What does it take for literature to become activism? How does literature succeed in moving readers to become invested in a cause? What kind of rhetorical decisions and literary devices do authors use to call readers to action? How can literature transform our understanding of the world around us? In what ways does environmental activism overlap with other social justice concerns such as racism, ableism, genderism, and colonialism?

We will explore the genre of environmental activist writing from a variety of angles and analyze various forms including poetry, short stories, comics, creative non-fiction, and digital writing. Assignments will also focus on ways you can learn important strategies from our readings to develop your own writing skills. Most importantly, we will uncover how literature has the power to bring hope and potential to an earth that finds itself in crisis – and how we as readers and writers can envision its empowering call.