Communication and Culture | Topics in Media, Culture, and Society (Topic: Performances of Human/Nature: Defining Relationships with the Environment)
C204 | 20607 | Robinson, J.

TuTh, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM, TE F256

Fulfills College S&H Requirement

Instructor: Jennifer Robinson
Office: C2 275
Phone: 855-4607

Performing Human/Nature introduces the diverse ways that people
understand the terms “human” and “nature” through cultural and
creative artifacts.  Students apply critical theory and ethnographic
methods to understand how people translate their understanding into
life choices.

During the course, we uncover the tacit definitions of terms such as
human, nature, environment, wilderness, society, progress, and
civilization in a variety of cultural artifacts (films, personal
essays, diaries, novels, paintings, poetry, advertisements, etc.) in
order to understand how people organize their lives and the world
according to these definitions.  We ask questions about the cultural
constructs and ideologies that inform the ways people frame nature,
including in movements that intentionally redefine human/nature,
such as Luddism, back-to-the-land, and sustainability.  The course
continues the work of CMCL C122, defamiliarizing one aspect of
culture for analysis, strengthening ethnographic skills (reflection,
observation, interview, participation, transcription, critical
analysis), and providing a foundation for more advanced courses on
environment, sustainability, and performance in communication and

This introductory course surveys diverse literatures and practices
to allow students to compare different definitions of the human
relationship to nature. Readings and lectures focus on critical and
ethnographic methods (e.g., Sherzer, Davies, Goodall), comparative
definitions (e.g., Snyder’s “The Etiquette of Freedom,” Columbus and
Audubon’s from their journals, Thoreau from Walden,
Silko’s “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination,” Dickey’s
Deliverance, Herzog’s film Grizzly Man, Gore’s “Environmentalism of
the Spirit,” Pollan’s “The Idea of a Garden”), and technological
redefinitions (e.g., Carson’s Silent Spring, the short video
Contaminated without Consent, Louv’s “Leave No Child Inside,” an
excerpt from Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto,” Lanier from You are not
a Gadget).  Written assignments will include reflection,
ethnography, textual analysis, and exams.