English 288

(Section 065)
Nature in Literature
Fall 2015
T, TH 1:00-2:15 PM
Mundelein Center 520

Fulfilling a university core requirement in Literary Knowledge and Experience, this course focuses on the relationship of human beings and the environment in which they function, as represented in a variety of literary works, in different genres and from different historical periods and cultural contexts.

That’s the general language of the university core course. In our particular case, we’ll raise questions about the very formulation that separates “human beings” and “their environment.”  We’ll  read a set of literary works–mostly poetry–in relation to the concept of the Anthropocene, the geological period, which some see as beginning with the so-called Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, in which the human species has had a significant impact on the global environment, a geologic age “of our own making” (Revkin, 1992). So we’ll focus on a particular influential  book from the era of the Industrial Revolution–specifically, the romantic period in British literally history. We’ll read the poems in that famous book alongside some recent writings on the Anthropocene and on object-oriented philosophy, as well as a few other literary works from the romantic period, with occasional supplemental short readings in class from other historical periods.


Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems. Broadview edition.

(Some other readings online, as assigned.)


1. Readings as assigned and participation in class discussions. 15%.

2. Leading a class discussion. For this you’ll prepare a micro-presentation: two slides, presented for approximately ten minutes, in whatever creative format you wish, followed by a general discussion of the presentation and the day’s readings, led by you. The slides should contain two juxtaposed images chosen by you to represent some interesting detail in the readings for that day, viewed from a historical perspective and from the perspective of your own major or area of interest. (This presentation may feed into your final essay—see #3.) You should consult with me in advance of the presentation and you’re required to be meet with me briefly during office hours in the week following the presentation. 30%

3. Writing a 7-10 page essay, due December 1, on the readings and from the perspective of your own major or area of interest, with stages assigned. All stages = 30%  (N.B.: Loyola’s statement on Academic Integrity.)

4. Midterm exam. 10%

5. Final exam (during finals week). 15%


As the core requirement says, students will be able to demonstrate understanding of representations of “nature” in different periods of literary history and diverse cultural contexts. In addition and in particular in this case, you’ll come away with enhanced knowledge of poetry and other literary texts, and how to study them.

(Lyrical Ballads in 1798 version unless otherwise indicated, but the curious can compare!)

25 Introductions
27 “Anthropocene: The Human Age”; “Lines Written in Early Spring”

1 “The Anthropocene Myth”; Wordsworth, “The World is too much with us”
3 “Expostulation and Reply,” “The Tables Turned”

8 “Anthropocene Fever”; “The Rime of the Ancient Marinere” (1798)
10 cont’d

15 cont’d; “Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew Tree”
17 “The Nightingale, A Conversational Poem”

22 “The Nightingale, A Conversational Poem”
24 “Goody Blake and Harry Gill”

29 “Simon Lee”
1 “Anecdote for Fathers”


13 “We are seven”
15 “The Last of the Flock”

20 “The Idiot Boy”
22 cont’d

27 “Object-oriented ontology” (Wikipedia) ; “Old Man Traveling” (both 1798 and 1800: “Animal Tranquility”), “A whirl-blast from behind the hill” (1800)
29 “There was a Boy, &c.,” “Nutting” (1800)

3 “Strange fits of passion,” “Song,” “A Slumber did my spirit seal” (1800)
5 “Lucy Gray” (1800)

10 Robinson, “The Haunted Beach”
12 Smith, “Sonnet III: To a Nightingale”

17 Williams, “To Sensibility”
19 Wordsworth, “Sonnet on seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams Weep at a Tale of Distress”

24 excerpts from Preface (1800) ; “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”
26 Thanksgiving

1 “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” cont’d; ESSAY DUE
3 Review