English | Projects in Reading & Writing -
Topic: READING THE SIGNS OF NATURE IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CULTURE
W170 | 1953 | Tobias Menely


The environmentalist Bill McKibben and the philosopher Fredric Jameson
can share credit for a provocative claim:  in the contemporary world,
to quote Jameson, "nature is gone for good."  Yet, a glance at the
American cultural landscape finds 'nature' in abundance:  in National
Parks, Sea World, and Nature Company stores, in advertisements for
SUVs, Gore-Tex jackets, vacation destinations, and even "lifestyles,"
in films as various as "The Matrix" and "Dances with Wolves," and in
Washington, DC, where legislators and lobbyists argue over the future
of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In this class, we will probe
the connection between these signs of nature and our sense that nature
is in peril or no longer exists.  We will look at advertisements,
examine cultural mythologies about wilderness, and read McKibben's
"The End of Nature," in order to investigate America's wide-ranging
and at times contradictory attitudes towards the natural world.  While
cultural signs of nature will be our subject matter, of equal
importance in this class will be practicing academic writing and
thinking.  The aim will be to develop a mode of critical inquiry
through writing, which seeks to locate and describe complexity, which
is comfortable engaging dialogue with other writers and thinkers, and
which works towards specificity and lucidity through sustained
revision.