English | Projects in Reading and Writing
W170 | 1828-1829 | Tobias Menely


Topic:  SEEKING SIGNS OF NATURE IN AMERICAN CULTURE

The environmentalist Bill McKibben and the philosopher Fredric Jameson
can share credit for a provocative claim:  in the modern 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 our fantasies of purity and progress, and in Washington, DC, where
legislators and lobbyists argue about global climate change and the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  In this class, we will probe the
connections between these signs of nature and our sense that nature is
in peril or no longer exists.  We will look at how nature is used in
advertisements, examine the mythology of wilderness, and read Jon
Krakauer's INTO THE WILD and McKibben's THE END OF NATURE in order to
investigate America's varied and often contradictory attitudes toward
the natural world.  While cultural signs of nature will be our subject
matter, of equal importance in this class will be practicing academic
writing, reading, and thinking.  Our aim till 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.