Comparative Literature | The Book of Nature
C205 | 25169 | Prof. Jeffrey Johnson

Spring 2007--Department of Comparative Literature
CMLT-C 205/25169
Comparative Literary Analysis:
The Book of Nature
*This course provides Arts and Humanities credit and Intensive
Writing credit*
Prof. Jeffrey Johnson ,  MW 9:30-10:45AM

In so many cultures around the globe, literature about the natural
world represents one of the oldest on-going traditions in both
poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction.  We will sample a wide
array of literary texts which will take us from the outer reaches of
the cosmos to the confines of the autumn vineyard, from archaic
Greece to medieval Japan to nineteenth century America.  We will see
nature moralized, politicized, romanticized, categorized,
antagonized, criticized, personified, and deified.  Whether
arranging the birds and bees into individual species or meditating
on a sunset, by writing about nature our authors are also saying
something about the place of humans in the material world.  Is
humanity a part of nature or apart from nature?
	This common thread running through so many cultures will be
our introduction to the study of methods of comparative literary
analysis.  Our texts will be arranged around the question of
literary influence.  How do we compare a work of literature to an
earlier work that has influenced the later author, and how can we
compare works of literature that have absolutely no connection to
each other in terms of language, time period, or culture?
	We will be reading Hesiod’s Works and Days, Vergil’s
Georgics, Plato’s Timaeus, Bernardus Silvestris’ Cosmographia, lyric
poetry by Saigyo, the travel diaries of Basho, and Henry
Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.  Each work will be introduced in its
historical and cultural context so as to broaden and deepen your
understanding of the narrative.
This course is required of Comparative Literature majors, but has no
prerequisites, so it is also open to any interested person.  The
scope and topic of this course welcome students interested in cross-
cultural studies, the natural sciences such as zoology and botany,
environmental and agricultural studies, the history and philosophy
of pre-modern science, and especially the intersection of
literature, science, and religion.
The Intensive Writing curriculum includes writing one short paper (2
pages), three 6-page essays, and a revision of one of these.  There
will also be short in-class writing assignments and reading
quizzes.  There are no exams for this course.  For further
information, send email inquiries to