Week #5

Tuesday September 26
New Moon Over Roxbury by Rebecca Johnson, p 61.
Short paper #8

Thursday September 28
Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah by Emily Hiestand, p 73.
The Girl Who Raised Pigeons by Edward P. Jones, p 89.

Week # 4

Tuesday September 19
City Wilds "Big City Waters" Michael Aaron Rockland, p 34.
City Wilds: "Bottles of Beaujolais" David Wong Louie, p. 47.
Note that "Bottles of Beaujolais" is a short story, which means that it's fiction.
Short Paper #6 

Thursday September 21
Speaking of Nature by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Short Paper #7
Come to class dressed to take a walk in the cemetery.

Week #3

For Tuesday, Sept 12 
City Wilds: "Where Have All the Animals Gone?" Charles Siebert, p 13.
From Death’s Door to Life in the City: the Urban Peregrine Falcon
Oh, and an XKCD comic
Short paper #4

For Thursday, Sept 14 
City Wilds: "Touching the Earth" bell hooks, p 28.
Red, Black, and Green by Ross Gay
Short paper #5

Week #2

For Tuesday, September 5

Read the poems by Audre Lorde in the packet I gave you.

For your response paper, you can write about the poems, or look up stuff about Audre Lorde (there is a lot -- she was one of the most important voices of the last century). Or use her poems as inspiration: take a walk in an urban area and write a poem of your own.

Short paper #2

Since I may have gotten carried away xeroxing Audre Lorde poems, here are a few that we are likely to discuss in class:
A Trip on the Staten Island Ferry
To Desi as Joe as Smoky the Lover of 115th Street
A Sewerplant Grows in Harlem
New York City 1970
Making Love to Concrete

For Thursday, September 7

City Wilds:
"Reversing the Tides" by Lisa Couturier, p1.
"The Moss Rose" by William Goyen, p 8.

Daylighting Takes Off as Cities Expose Long-Buried Rivers
by Rachel Kaufman in National Geographic.

Short paper #3

For Thursday, August 31

Welcome to EWP 311 Urban Environmental Literature. This website is where I'll post class assignments and announcements.

The first thing you need to do is buy your books for the class. Here's what you will need:

City Wilds edited by Terrell Dixon
Urban Nature edited by Laure-Ann Bosselaar

Since you will likely order them online, you should order them right away.

For Thursday, August 31

Read the first five poems in the packet by Sharon Olds.
Short Paper # 1 is due. You can choose a poem to write about -- or write about more than one poem. Or add to our class discussion about what urban nature it, and the role literature plays in our lives.

Note: When  I photocopied the Kopis'taya poem, the verses got mixed up. The last stanza should actually be the first. The poem will make much more sense if you read it that way.

Here is Joy Harjo reading aloud the Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window


Want to read about nature in the city?

EWP 311 is a writing-intensive literature course designed for ESF students who want to read, discuss, and write about urban nature literature.

We’ll read an essay by a writer who canoes around Manhattan, an essay by a writer who contemplates Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Zoo, an interview with a woman who created a community garden, and a poem that describes a peregrine falcon diving between skyscrapers, plus other poems, stories, and essays written by city dwellers.

We will examine the city as home, as nature, and as the place where the ecological crisis has become evident.

EWP 311 Urban Environmental Literature

“There is a growing body of cultural criticism engaged with urban ecology that tends to reject mainstream ecocriticism’s focus on the genres of nature writing and pastoral, insisting on the incapacity of those genres to represent the complex interactions between political choices, socio-economic structures, and the densely-populated ecosystems that shape urban environments.” 
 Michael Bennett, Long Island University, Brooklyn

“Urban ecocriticism confronts us directly with the interconnections between environmental degradation and issues of race, class, and gender.” 
 Karla Armbruster, Webster University

“Sixty percent of all Indians live in urban areas but nobody’s writing about them.” 
Sherman Alexie

Cities were once thought to be apart from, separate from nature. Historically, the city was seen as a sanctuary from evil wilderness. More recently, urban sprawl has been constructed as a threat to nature. Recent trends in ecocriticism demand that we include urban areas as part of the total environment. The city is the place where the ecological crisis becomes evident -- and the study of environmental literature can no longer ignore this. Urban areas in the United States occupy 3.5 percent of the country but hold 75 percent of the population. They are 27 percent tree-covered. Urban forestry is the fastest segment of forestry growing nationwide.

Urban nature does exist, whether poets write about it or not. The city is the place where the borders between nature and culture fluctuate constantly. Urban literature often includes a critique of the social, political, and economic factors that threaten the health of our planet -- and as such, ought to be considered part of the canon of environmental literature.

In this course, we will look at:

1) Urban nature writing. Poets and essayists write about the flora and fauna of an urban ecosystem, the wildness that grows in gardens, parks, and backyards, the effects of wildlife and weather, the trees and birds, the cut flowers and the baking bread, and the various ways city dwellers connect to nature. We will analyze the ways in which the canon of nature literature has privileged rare and endangered species over the more abundant urban creatures and plants: cockroaches, pigeons, dandelions, maples. We will examine the relationship between literature and the physical environment, the ways in which humans interact with and write about the cityscape, and the attachment to place that roots city dwellers. A special focus in this section will be on writings about city parks, natural places which are also cultural products that reflect the ideologies of those who create them. For many writers, urban parks challenge the polarity of culture vs. nature.

2) Urban ecocriticism exposes the interconnections between environmental degradation and issues of race, class, and gender. Inner cities have often been constructed as racially demarcated urban wilderness areas. Such movements as ecofeminism and the environmental justice movement examine the ways in which the ecological crisis can be linked to other forms of domination. We will look at literature which makes these links and argues for change.

3) Environmental literature must ultimately address questions about the future: urban planning, the role of technology, and ways in which humans in urban areas can live in a community of plants and creatures. We will look at literature that regards the city as an ecosystem that includes hydrological systems, predator-prey relationships, and energy transfers. We will look at urban literature from an environmental perspective and see if we can find the ecological component that is often missing from a cultural analysis of the city.