Nature in Literature

English 288-081
Meeting in Cudahy Science 313, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 8:30-9:45 AM

(Be sure to check out the course schedule.)

Course Description

The natural world has offered fertile imaginative ground for as long as people have been aware of it. In this course we will study various literary expressions of the relationship between people and nature, with special emphasis on medieval and early modern attitudes toward and representations of the world around them. We shall address such concerns as how we idealize, encounter, and contend with nature and more “natural” ways of living. While the focus of this course is on literature, it will also be interdisciplinary in scope: students are encouraged to enrich the class with their own interest in and experience with ecological and environmental issues.

Required Texts

The above books will be available at Beck’s only. In addition to these texts, you are expected to consult this site, which whill contain additional reading materials, schedule updates, and class notes. Note: In the course schedule, “KM” refers to Keegan and McKusick’s Literature and Nature. Page references refer to Literature and the Environment, unless otherwise indicated.

Learning Outcomes

See the outcomes page for the official university statement of learning objectives and competencies for this course.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism or cheating of any kind will incur severe penalties that may include a grade of F for the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Chair of the English Department and to the Dean of the student’s college. For a brief explanation of what constitutes plagiarism and why it violates basic academic principles, see the section on “Academic Integrity” in the Undergraduate Studies Catalogue. Be sure also to familiarize yourself with the English department’s discussion of “The Use and Misuse of Source Materials.” If you have questions about academic integrity or the appropriate use of sources, please do not hesitate to speak with me.

Class Procedures

You are expected to attend every class session and actively participate in class discussion. Missing class will likely hamper your understanding of the course material; in addition, your class participation grade will be lowered 2.5 percentage points for each unexcused absence. Learning is a collaborative process: while I have my own interests when it comes to the course material, it is also imperative that we pursue your interests and concerns; I encourage you to come to class with notes and potential discussion questions.

Each writing assignment is due at the beginning of the class period. All writing assignments should be typed, double-spaced, and in 12-point “Times New Roman” or another reasonably-sized (and readable) font. Writing assignments should also have one-inch margins and follow the citation standards in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th edition). Please do not use a separate title page. Electronic submissions of written work are not accepted; late submissions will be lowered ⅓ grade each day they are late.


Class participation: 10%
Response papers: 10%
Midterm: 15%
Essay: 40%
Final: 25%

Graded Material

Response Papers

Over the course of the semester, you have the opportunity to write four one-page response papers. Each response paper should address one of our assigned readings and focus on a passage, question, issue, or idea that you find compelling. Response papers are an opportunity for you to discover what you think about a topic; you might even find a compelling essay topic in one or more of your response papers. Be sure, therefore, to write about what interests you—no matter how silly you might think I might find it. Each response paper is due on the first day that we discuss the text it addresses. You need to write at least two response papers before the midterm exam.


The essay is an opportunity for you to engage one or more of the issues raised by our texts and in class. While the main thrust of the essay should be some form of literary analysis, you are welcome to employ your own interests in developing your argument. The essay must be no shorter than five pages. I will provide further details by 11 September. Update: The detailed essay requirements are online.

Midterm Exam

This closed-book exam will cover all material before the exam date and will consist primarily of short essays and the identification of terms.

The exam takes place on Thursday, Oct. 4, 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., in the classroom.

Final Exam

The final exam will follow the format of the midterm, but it will be comprehensive in its scope and have a slightly longer essay component.

The exam takes place on Saturday, Dec. 15, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., in the classroom.

Questions? Send me e-mail: .