When Trees Speak: Exploring the Rhetorical Roots of Environmental Writing
What do we mean when we say “the environment”? Do we begin our understanding of the environment by looking around us, or is our understanding of the environment influenced and constructed by more than what meets the eye? This course begins by examining some classics of American nature writing with an appreciative and critical eye, and it continues by opening our investigation toward a more generous conception of both the genre and its resonances in the world. We will explore the roots and branches of the literary, historical and theoretical contexts for some of today’s most pressing environmental debates and focus on how writers enlist genre to promote social change and how their rhetorical strategies—appeals to logic, ethics, and emotion—raise awareness of environmental concerns and sometimes motivate action.
Through class discussions, in-class compositions, and focused writing assignments, we will learn to evaluate, compare, and analyze the arguments others have made about the importance of the environment in our lives. Readings will include Abbey’s Desert Solitaire; Berry’s Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community; Carson’s Silent Spring; Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable, Miracle; TED Talks; and the film Flow, for the Love of Water.