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Studies in American Literature
Fall 2015
Dr. Sheila Liming
Office: Merrifield 1B
Course Description

and the Natural World
Office hours:
MWF 10 am – 12 pm,
and by appointment

“Behold, there in the wood, the fine madman!” Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaims. “He is
a palace of sweet sounds and sights; he dilates; he is twice a man; he walks with arms akimbo; he
soliloquizes; he accosts the grass and the trees; he feels the blood of the violet, the clover, and
the lily in his veins; and he talks with the brook that wets his foot” (“Love” 168). Nature was, for
Emerson and his nineteenth-century contemporaries, an automatic venue for the contemplation
of human character. Though distinct from society and its man-made products, nature was
nevertheless, in the words of geographer Neil Smith, “pristine, God-given, autonomous … the
raw material from which society [was] built.” By the early twentieth century, however,
industrialization and large-scale urbanization served to separate human society from the natural
environment. Nature became, on the one hand, increasingly tied to the logic of use-value and
extraction, and on the other, to rhetorical programs of access, conservation, and preservation, and
both of these outlooks were in turn informed by considerations of race, class, and gender. By the
middle point of the twentieth century, those rhetorical programs become crystallized in the logic
of modern environmentalism.
This course charts the development of American social conceptions of nature through the
context of American literature. We will trace the evolution of Americans’ interactions with
nature, beginning in the nineteenth century with writers like Emerson and Thoreau, but also from
the writings of naturalist pioneer John Muir. Moving into the twentieth century, we will study the
transition from “wild” nature to “middle” nature, as it is labeled by some ecocritics, in the works
of figures like Frank Norris, Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, and Meridel le Sueur. We will
trace these ideas up to the time of the modern conservationist epoch that begins in the 1970s,
observing how works like Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Maclean’s A River Runs
Through It stories, and Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge revive the arguments of nineteenthcentury Transcendentalism in the service of contemporary environmental agendas. At heart, our
reading will be underscored by recent, ecocritical interpretations of this body of literature, and by
theoretical interventions into it.
Course Objectives

To acquaint students with touchstone American literary works, and to permit students the
opportunity to situate those works within the concerns and agendas outlined by the contemporary
field of ecocriticism.

To enable students’ engagement with literary theory and criticism, and to encourage them to hone
their skills in applying theoretical arguments to the interpretation of literary text.

To professionalize and train students for advanced work in a literary studies graduate curriculum.

To impart processes of close reading, close writing, and attentive research as preparation for
advanced graduate work in literary studies.

To encourage multimodal thinking in both the consumption and construction of written texts, and
to allow the students the opportunity to apply that thinking to the construction of digital texts, too.

To establish standards for academic discourse and participation through in-class discussion, peer
evaluation, and collaborative assignments.

To encourage students in the development of a problem-based approach to humanities
scholarship, wherein they may perceive a link between humanistic study, literature, and
contemporary social problem-solving.

Required Texts
[to be purchased]
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire. New York: Touchstone, 1990. Print.
Atwood, Margaret. Surfacing. New York: Anchor, (1972) 1998. Print.
Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: Harper Perennial, (1974) 2013. Print.
Muir, John. The Mountains of California. New York: Merchant Books, 2009. Print.
Norris, Frank. The Octopus. New York: Penguin, (1901) 1986. Print.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Civil Disobedience. New York: Penguin, (1854) 1983. Print.
Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome and Summer. New York: Modern Library, (1917) 2001. Print.
Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge. New York: Vintage, 1992. Print.
Additional Texts
[available on Blackboard]
Buell, Lawrence. “The Emergence of Environmental Criticism.” The Future of Environmental
Criticism. New York: Wiley-Blackwell (2005), 1-28. Print.
Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness.” Eco-Criticism: The Essential Reader. New
York: Routledge (2014), 102-119. Print.

Hemingway, Ernest. Selections from The Nick Adams Stories. New York: Scribner, 1972. Print.
LaDuke, Winona. Selections from All Our Relations. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999.
Lefebvre, Henri. From “Contradictory Space.” The Production of Space. Malden, MA:
Blackwell (1984), 321-352. Print.
LeGuin, Ursula K. “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.” The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in
Literary Ecology, eds. Glotfelty and Fromm. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press
(1994), 149-154. Print.
Le Sueur, Meridel. Selections from Harvest Song: Collected Essays and Stories. New York:
West End Press, 1990. Print.
MacLean, Norman. Selections from A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1976. Print.
Marx, Leo. Selections from The Machine in the Garden. New York: Oxford UP (1965) 2000.
Philips, Dana. “Is Nature Necessary?” The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in
Literary Ecology, eds. Glotfelty and Fromm. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press
(1994), 204-222. Print.
Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert. New York: Penguin, 1987. Print.
Scheese, Don. “Desert Solitaire: Counter-Friction to The Machine in the Garden.” The
Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology, eds. Glotfelty and Fromm. Athens,
GA: University of Georgia Press (1994), 303-322. Print.
Smith, Neil. “The Ideology of Nature.” Uneven Development. Athens, GA: University of
Georgia Press (1990), 10-48. Print.
Snyder, Gary. “The Commons.” Eco-Criticism: The Essential Reader, ed. Hiltner. New
York: Routledge (2014), 70-76. Print.
Williams, Raymond. Selections from Keywords. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.
---. Selections from The Country and the City. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.

Assignments and Grading
Weekly Agendas
[10 pts. each]
Midsemester Project: Infographic
[100 pts.]
Final Paper
[100 pts.]
Course Participation
Mid-semester [40 pts.]
Final [40 pts.]

Course Policies and Procedures
Since this is a discussion-based course, attendance is mandatory. Students in graduate courses
should view course attendance as part of the job of being a graduate student; missing class
should only happen under rare and exceptional circumstances, much like missing a day of work.
You are allowed two absences without penalty— following your third absence, your grade in the
class will begin to drop by a half-a-letter grade per absence (5% of your total grade). Plan ahead
if you think you might miss class for religious holidays or for other scheduled events. I do not
distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. You are allowed two absences – be they
excused or unexcused – before your grade begins to decrease, unless other special
arrangements have been made with me ahead of time.
If you have extenuating circumstances significantly affecting your attendance throughout the
semester (such as an illness or a family emergency), please get in touch with me so we can
discuss your specific situation. If you miss more than the allotted days due to such extenuating
circumstances, we will discuss whether it’s prudent for you to continue in the course.
Late Arrival
Arrive on time. You will not receive an A in this class if you do not arrive on time. Lateness not
only disrupts the class but also demonstrates disrespect for your peers and for your instructor.
For every two late arrivals to class, you will be marked for one absence. If you are more than
15 minutes late to class, you will be marked absent for that day.
Class Participation
This course depends upon the participation of its members. Participation, which includes both
classroom involvement and physically being in class, makes up roughly 20% of your total grade.

While your class participation grade falls to my discretion, there are several steps you can take to
ensure you achieve a satisfactory grade:

Come to class prepared, with a hard (physical) copy of the required reading.
Since laptop use is prohibited in class, it is essential that you print bring a hard
copy of the required reading to class every day. When .pdf readings are provided
on Blackboard, it is your responsibility to print those readings out and bring them
with you to class. Failure to do so will result in the loss participation points;
additionally, failure to do so may affect any in-class writing assignments, quizzes,
or exercises that require the text in question.

Be prepared to participate; plan to participate. You should anticipate contributing
to course discussions on a regular basis. This means that you must both be
prepared (having done the required assignment or reading) and must formulate
and offer contributions to the discussion on a regular basis (at least once a

Be courteous toward your peers. When you raise disagreement in class – either
with the instructor or with your peers – try to do so respectfully. Articulate your
reasons and grounds for disagreement and direct them towards an idea, rather
than a person. Failure to show adequate respect towards your peers or towards
your instructor may result in your being asked to leave the classroom. Such a
request will, in turn, affect my assessment of your class participation, and
possibly your attendance record as well.

Keep in mind that participation will be assessed twice throughout the semester –
at the mid-semester point, and once again at the end.

Scholastic Honesty, Plagiarism, and Cheating
At the University of North Dakota, we believe in the excellence of our students and in the
integrity of our academic programs. We also believe that your good ideas become better when
you test them against the ideas of others. So for this course, feel free to discuss your ideas about
the major writing assignments with other students. Collaborating on question/answer homework
assignments or open-book quizzes, however, is not acceptable; these types of assignments are
designed for me, your instructor, to monitor how you are handling specific parts of the course
material. Blatantly taking someone else’s words, ideas or concepts, and using them without
citing your source is plagiarism. So is using another student’s essay, or part of his or her essay,
as your own. In the world of writing (academic writing especially), this is a serious crime, and is
treated as such. Anyone who uses non-documented material from another source, including
online sources, will receive a failing grade for the entire course and will be referred to university
administrators for possible further disciplinary action.
These policies are concurrent with the University of North Dakota’s policies regarding scholastic
honesty. For more information about these policies, please refer to the “Scholastic Honesty”
section of the Undergraduate Academic Information materials available online at

All final versions of essay assignments will be submitted to Blackboard, which runs digital
comparisons of submitted assignments in order to identify possible cases of plagiarism. For this
reason, you must submit final versions of papers to Blackboard. You may additionally submit
versions of your assignment through other electronic means (via email, for instance), but if you
fail to submit your paper to Blackboard, it will be treated as late, and lateness penalties will
In this course, we will talk about the differences between plagiarism and the misuse of sources. If
you have any questions regarding the appropriate use of source material (readings, critical
opinions, or supplemental research), please feel free to ask me. In my experience, those students
who plagiarize are also those who feel overwhelmed by the assignment and thus compelled to
use someone else’s work as their own. If you get so frustrated with an assignment that you feel
like your only option is to plagiarize, come see me. My role as a teacher is to help students, not
to punish them— please use me as a resource to help you write, brainstorm, or work out
assignments and essays.
General Guidelines for Submitting Assignments
All papers submitted in this class – including short, type-written homework responses
(“Agendas”) – must comply with Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines and citation
rules. This means that you must provide MLA compliant documentation for the use of additional
sources, including:

Works Cited entries, providing correct bibliographic information for each
source cited, quoted, or consulted in your paper

correct in-text citations for each source cited, quoted, or consulted in your paper

If you are unsure of MLA guidelines, I suggest you either consult or purchase a current
MLA Style Guide, or consult the following online source:
The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University:
In addition to proper citation,

All papers, including short response assignments, must be typed, double-spaced, with 1”

All papers completed as homework – including “Agendas” – must be digitally
submitted via Blackboard, unless otherwise specified.

Include page numbers on all assignments longer than one page.

Carefully edit and proofread all texts to eliminate problems in grammar, spelling, and

Digital copies of all final papers must be cleanly edited and readable. This means that
you must remove all digital comments/suggestions, including highlighted or underlined
text, and including all comment balloons.

Spell-check your documents.

Documents that do not meet these and other assignment-specific requirements will not be
graded. They will be returned to you and, when resubmitted, will be treated as late
All written assignments must be submitted on the due date, and missing the class when the
assignment is due doesn’t mean your assignment isn’t late. Turning in an assignment on time is
part of doing the assignment, and late work will be penalized, regardless of how well it’s
Lateness penalties are as follows:
• Daily assignments. All late assignments may receive a maximum of half-credit (50%),
regardless of how late they are.

Midterm and final papers/projects. For every day that a midterm or final paper/project is
late, you will lose five points.

Cell Phones, Laptops, etc.
Students are expected to participate and be engaged in class discussion. Therefore, students are
required to silence or turn off cell phones before coming to class (there is, quite obviously, to be
no text messaging during class). All laptops must remain closed unless you have made prior
arrangements with me and have demonstrated that using a laptop is necessary for your learning.
Campus Resources
If you have a learning disability that could impair your progress in this course, please contact
Disability Services. Students are encouraged to register through Disability Services in order to
receive recommendations for learning accommodations.
Disability Services
McCannel Hall Room 190
We can arrange to accommodate your learning style based on DS recommendations. Please
notify me at the start of the semester if you have specific needs, or if Disability Services has
provided you with a Verification of Needs for Disability Accommodations.

Writing Help
All students are encouraged to take advantage of UND’s Writing Center to receive help in
preparing writing assignments.
To make an appointment or speak with a tutor, visit their website, or the visit the Writing Center
UND Writing Center
Merrifield Hall Room 12
You can reach me via email, office phone, or a note in my mailbox in Merrifield Hall. The best
way to reach me, of course, is through email – I check it frequently and, while I cannot guarantee
an immediate reply, it is certainly the fastest way to get in touch.
If you have questions about the policies of this class, review the syllabus first, and then make
an appointment to speak with me.

Course Schedule
August 24

Course introduction; review syllabus; Williams, “Nature”
and “Culture” (from Keywords)

Unit I: The Natural Sublime
August 31

Thoreau, Walden; Marx, “Sleepy Hollow, 1844”

September 7

No class – enjoy your Labor Day!

September 14

Muir, The Mountains of California: Cronon, “The Problem
with Wilderness” [BB]; Smith, “The Ideology of Nature”

Unit II: Nature, Machines, and the New Pastoral
September 21
Norris, The Octopus (Part I: pp. 3-282); Marx, “The
Machine” [BB]
September 28

Norris, The Octopus (Part II: pp. 286-652); Lefebvre, from
“Contradictory Space” [BB]

October 5

Wharton, Summer; Williams, “Country and City” and
“Knowable Communities” [BB]
Introduce mid-semester projects

October 12

DUE: mid-semester project narratives [follow steps 1-3
on the assignment sheet to create your “narrative”]*
Hemingway, Nick Adams Stories [BB]; Le Sueur, Harvest
Song stories [BB]; Philips, “Is Nature Necessary?” [BB]
+ in-class lab / editing time for mid-semester projects
* note: no agendas due this week

October 19

UNIT III: Modern Nature
October 26

DUE: Mid-Semester Projects
Buell, “The Emergence of Environmental Criticism” [BB]
Share mid-semester projects in class
McLean, A River Runs Through It stories [BB]; Snyder,
“The Commons” [BB]

November 2

Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

November 3

FILM SCREENING: Polanski, Chinatown (1974)

4 pm, Merrifield
November 9

Polanski, Chinatown [watch before coming to class]
Reisner, Cadillac Desert [BB]

November 16

Atwood, Surfacing
Discuss final paper assignment

November 23

Abbey, Desert Solitaire; Scheese, “Desert Solitaire:
Counter-Friction to The Machine in the Garden” [BB]

November 30

Tempest-Williams, Refuge; LaDuke, from All Our
Relations [BB]

December 7

DUE: final papers (rough drafts), by start of class
Last day of class: share final papers in-class,
course wrap-up

Assignment Instructions: Weekly Agendas

[10 pts. each]

Every week, you will be required to submit a weekly “agenda” – that is, a persuasive,
argumentative response to that week’s assigned reading that raises questions, provocations, or
criticisms that may help to structure our in-class discussion.
Agendas should be between 200-300 words (the same length as a conference paper abstract) and
should be focused, clear, and persuasive. They should identify and respond directly to a single
idea or argument – not an entire novel, and not everything you were required to read that week.
Quoting directly from the text will allow you to do this in a more focused manner.
Here is an example of an agenda prepared for a discussion of Thoreau’s Walden:

Notice that the second paragraph of this sample agenda contains a clear set of questions for
class discussion. Yours should, too.
Instructions for submitting agendas:
Agendas should be submitted electronically and posted to our class blog (on Blackboard) by no
later than 12 pm (noon) each Monday that our class is scheduled to meet.
You should include your Word Count total at the end of your agenda. (Yes, this may seem fussy,
but it’s good practice: conferences and journals often require you to submit short, argumentative
abstracts describing your work with attached Word Count totals. It’s never too early to get in the
habit of churning these things out …)

Assignment Instructions: Mid-Semester Project / Infographic

[100 pts.]

So far this semester, we’ve surveyed a number of works of American literature – and their
associated criticism – that identify, draw upon, and evoke a range of issues and problems with
relevance to ecology and the natural world. For this assignment, you will be using Adobe
Photoshop to create an infographic that succinctly assesses: 1) one of the literary works we have
studied so far and, 2) a central ecological issue highlighted by that work.


An infographic is a visual representation of research or data that is intended to
present information quickly and clearly to the viewer. Infographics combine text
with visual clues – images, shapes, lines / pathways showing cause and effect,
etc. – in order to encourage the viewer’s ability to grasp patterns, trends, and the
evolution of a given concept.


Examples of infographics abound on the Internet. But check out this one, from the website, for a great, humanities-centric example:
Infographics can be created using a variety of templates and software; for this project, you’ll be
working with Adobe Photoshop in order to practice manipulating and arranging both textual and
visual layers.
Assignment Steps:
Step 1

Select a literary text from our course reading so far. Identify and select a central
issue or problem that you believe the text is trying to highlight with regards to
nature or humans’ interactions with the natural world.

Step 2

Reformulate the issue you selected in Step 1 as a research question. The goal here
is to highlight the relationship between the text you’ve chosen and the ecological
issue you’ve identified. Your research question should also be historically
Example: What does [insert text] tell contemporary readers about
[insert ecological issue] ?

Step 3


What was [insert text] trying to tell
of its given time period] about [insert ecological issue] ?



Gather evidence from the primary text you have selected in order to begin to
furnish an “answer” to the research question you’ve devised. Look back over the
text you’ve chosen: select quotations, examples, etc. that relate to the issue you’ve
decided to focus on in your infographic. You may also want to incorporate
secondary textual evidence and criticism – either from our course reading (Marx,

Smith, etc.), or from elsewhere. Infographics often function best when they rely
on information that can be represented graphically, so consider locating
contemporary or historical statistics, data, etc. to support your discussion.
Then, after you’ve done all that, draft a narrative – that is, a short, 200-300 word
explanation – of the issue including:
your research question
an explanation of the ways in which the primary text in question engages
this research question
any additional research (statistics, data, etc.)
a central argument, or “take-away,” that the text arrives at with relevance
to this question
Step 4

Begin creating your infographic in Photoshop. Initially, we will have some class
time dedicated to doing this, but essentially, you need to create a new Photoshop
document with the following specifications:

11 x 18” document dimensions
350 dpi (for digital display resolution)
CMYK color profile embedding (for printing)

To do this, open Photoshop and go to FILE > NEW and set your document
specifications as follows:

Step 5

Select and create a background layer. In this case, you’ll probably want to choose
a solid color background (as opposed to an image) – but this is ultimately up to
you. To create a colored background, select the color you want by clicking on the
“Set Background Color” option (left-hand toolbar). Use the color wheel to choose
your color and the Paint Bucket tool to fill the canvas.

Step 6

Add layers to your infographic. Photoshop allows you to manipulate images by
layering images, text, effects, filters, etc. onto a given background.

For instance, you can add text layers by clicking on the


You can create color blocks / shapes for text background with the
click and select “Rectangle Tool”

icon (right-

tool will also allow you to construct lines and pathways. Select it and
edit the appearance of your line or pathway using the toolbar that comes with it at
the top of the page:

To add an image or graphic that you have separately downloaded
(IMPORTANT: make sure you’re working with Creative Commons [or
equivalent] images that are licensed for public use – ask me if you have questions
about this!), save the image to your desktop and then go to FILE > PLACE to add
the image to your canvas. If you want to edit the image itself, you will have to
open it as a separate Photoshop file and commit all edits before placing it in your
infographic document file.
Every time you do something new – add text, images, lines, etc. – you will
automatically create a new “layer.” You will also then be able to edit directly
within layers, without affecting the appearance or formatting of the rest of your
Step 7

Edit and add the text of your “narrative” to your infographic. Your resulting
infographic should be clear and succinct; it should read much more clearly and
quickly than your original “narrative,” so you’ll need to make some decisions
about how to edit that original document down, substituting images for text, lines
and shapes for causality, etc.

Step 8

Save and submit your completed infographic as a .pdf file.
Photoshop automatically saves images as .psd (Photoshop) files. You’ll want to
save one version of your infographic in this format (in case you need to edit it
more in the future) and one version of your infographic as a .pdf file (so you
make sure you change the file format / extension when saving the second copy).
Upload the .pdf version of your file to Blackboard through the appropriate
assignment heading / link

Step 9

Be prepared to present your finished infographic in class. You’ll want to explain
changes you made throughout the editing process, the reason you chose specific
images / graphic representations, etc.

Step 10

Peer review: you will be assigned to grade and respond to another class member’s

Assignment Instructions: Final Paper

[100 pts.]

Over the course of the semester, we’ve surveyed a variety of primary and secondary texts with
relevance to considerations of ecology, ideologies of nature, and society’s interactions with its
natural surroundings. Now it’s your turn to develop an original research agenda in connection
with these considerations.
Requirements for your paper:

15-20 pp. in length

Works Cited page, correctly formatted according to MLA specifications

your writing should follow a clearly outlined research agenda and persuasively
argue in favor of a central idea related to that agenda

your paper must work with and cite from at least one course text. That text may
be either a primary, literary source, or a secondary, critical source, but it should
figure functionally in your writing (and not be reduced to a mere citation or