TITLE: “WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: LANDSCAPES AND ANIMALS IN THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION”

Instructor: Lisa Ottum/Stefanie Bluemle

• 5105 12:20-1:10 MWF TBA

• 5013 11:15-12:05 MWF TBA

Since most of us will never get to travel around the globe and see the Earth’s varied environments with our own eyes, our concept of what many different environments and the organisms that live in them are like is almost entirely informed by the way these places are portrayed in popular culture. Pop culture teaches us which parts of nature are “beautiful” and which are “dangerous”; it tells us which parts of nature are “wild” and which animals are “majestic.” Most importantly, popular images of nature shape our understanding of how and why the natural world is “valuable.” In this course we will explore this central question: how do pop culture images of environments and animals guide our sense of which environments and animals are worth preserving? We will read articles that provide perspectives on American environmental attitudes, and we will write papers in which we use these articles to help us examine nature in movies, on TV, in magazines and advertisements, and on the web. In addressing these texts, we will uncover some of the consequences, good and bad, of understanding “nature” and the “environment” the way we do in contemporary America.