ENGL 460: The Ecological Imagination (Rev. C1) Report a Broken Link

English 460: The Ecological Imagination investigates the links among literature, culture, and the environment, asking students to consider the role of cultural and literary analysis in the face of climate crisis and ecological complexity. Drawing from scholarly work in the environmental humanities as well as close readings of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, students will investigate how literature can illuminate, question, and reshape our relationships with the environment. They will have the opportunity to consider topics such as climate justice, wilderness, birds, metaphor, technology, the limitations of language and imagination, environmental racism and inequities, Indigenous representations of the environment, decolonization, the Anthropocene, pandemics, hope, grief, and visions of the future.


Course Introduction Video

Course Introduction Video Transcript
The course Study Guide will assign each of the below readings and videos at the appropriate time.
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Unit 1: Climate and the Imagination

Unit 1 Introduction Video

Unit 1 Introduction Video Transcript
Wallace-Wells, David. “The Uninhabitable Earth, Annotated Edition.” New York, July 2017.

Note: Reading the yellow-highlighted annotations is optional.

If that article is unavailable, please read the original: Wallace-Wells, David. “The Uninhabitable Earth.” New York, vol. 50, no. 14, 10 July 2017, p. 24+.

Garrard, Greg. “Beginnings: Pollution.” Ecocriticism, Routledge, 2011, pp. 1–17.
Soper, Ella, and Nicholas Bradley, eds. Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context. U of Calgary P, 2013.

Please read the first three sections of “Introduction: Ecocriticism North of the Forty-Ninth Parallel,” by Ella Soper and Nicholas Bradley, beginning on page xiii.

Click on the Free PDF tab below the book cover. Download the full text version of the book or just the “Front Matter.”

Szeman, Imre, Jennifer Wenzel, and Patricia Yaeger, eds. Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment. Fordham UP, 2017.

Please read at least five entries of your choice from this book. Recommended entries include

  • Aboriginal, by Warren Cariou
  • Anthropocene 1, by Dipesh Chakrabarty
  • Anthropocene 2, by Rob Nixon
  • Canada, by Kit Dobson
  • Catastrophe, by Claudia Aradau
  • Disaster, by Claire Colebrook
  • Ecology, by Timothy Morton
  • Fiction, by Graeme Macdonald
  • Gender, by Sheena Wilson
Banting, Pamela. “Suddenly.” NiCHE: Network in Canadian History and Environment, 17 Jan. 2018.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. “The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations.” The New Yorker, 1 May 2020.
“ASLE Statement on COVID-19.” Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, 23 Apr. 2020.
Supplementary Reading
Wallace-Wells, David. “After Alarmism: The War on Climate Denial Has Been Won. And That’s Not the Only Good News.” New York, 19 Jan. 2021.

In 2021, Wallace-Wells posted this update to “The Uninhabitable Earth.” It provides a somewhat more optimistic perspective on future climate change: Wallace-Wells argues that both the worst-case and the best-case scenarios are becoming increasingly unlikely.

ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

Take a look at recent issues of this journal to see some of the most current developments in ecocriticism.

Garrard, Greg, Axel Goodbody, George Handley, and Stephanie Posthumus. “Chapter 1: Introduction.” Climate Change Scepticism: A Transnational Ecocritical Analysis, Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, pp. 1–40.

This book coauthored by Greg Garrard seeks to understand how and why climate-change skepticism remains persistent. You may wish to read the Introduction.

Soper, Ella, and Nicholas Bradley, eds. Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context. U of Calgary P, 2013.

If you are particularly interested in Canadian literature and its ecocritical concerns, you may also wish to read the remaining sections of the introduction to Greening the Maple (pages xxvii to xliv), as well as other chapters from the book.

Sandilands, Catriona. “Introduction: Environmental Literatures and Politics in Canada.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 25, no. 2 (Spring 2018), pp. 280–291.

This introduction to an “Environmental Literatures and Politics in Canada” special issue of the journal ISLE provides a more recent overview of ecocriticism in Canada.

Whetter, Darryl. “Bitumen, Bit of Me, Bit of You: Climate Change, National Literatures, Peak Oil, and Canada’s Tar Sands.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 27, no. 1, 2020, pp. 128–149.

Whetter writes on representations of the Alberta oil sands.

The Goose: A Journal of Arts, Environment, and Culture in Canada

See the book reviews and other features in this journal to get a sense of the most current concerns in ecocriticism in Canada. The Goose is the official publication of ALECC (Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada/Association pour la littérature, l'environnement et la culture au Canada).

Wald, Priscilla. “Introduction.” Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, Duke UP, 2008, pp. 1–28.

Page down for a free download of the "Introduction."

Unit 2: Gun Island

Supplementary Reading
Knight, Ben. “Amitav Ghosh: What the West Doesn’t Get About the Climate Crisis.” Deutsche Welle (DW), 11 June 2019.
Assignment 1
Assignment 1 Video

Assignment 1 Video Transcript
Guptill, Amy. Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence. BC Campus, OpenEd, 2020.

Please read

  • Chapter 2: What Does the Professor Want? Understanding the Assignment

Read the section “What’s Critical About Critical Thinking?” (pp. 15–18).

  • Chapter 3: Constructing the Thesis and Argument—From the Ground Up

Unit 3: Encountering the Earth

Unit 3 Introduction Video

Unit 3 Introduction Video Transcript
Dungy, Camille T. “Is All Writing Environmental Writing?” The Georgia Review, Fall/Winter 2018.
Abram, David. “Waking Our Animal Senses: Language and the Ecology of Sensory Experience.” 1997. Alliance for Wild Ethics, 2022.
McKay, Don. “Baler Twine: Thoughts on Ravens, Home, and Nature Poetry.” SCL/ÉLC: Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne, vol. 18, no. 1, Jan. 1993.
McKay, Don. “Adagio for a Fallen Sparrow.” Field Marks: The Poetry of Don McKay, Laurier UP, 2009, pp. 16–17.

In “Adagio for a Fallen Sparrow,” the poet finds a dead sparrow in his garage and wonders what to do with it.

McKay, Don. “To Speak of Paths.” Apparatus, McClelland and Stewart, 1997, pp. 16–17.
To Speak of Paths: Video 1

To Speak of Paths: Video 1 Transcript
To Speak of Paths: Video 2

To Speak of Paths: Video 2 Transcript
To Speak of Paths: Video 3

To Speak of Paths: Video 3 Transcript
McKay, Don. “Song for Beef Cattle.” Apparatus, McClelland and Stewart, 1997, p. 23.
Supplementary Reading
Morgan, Phillip Dwight. “Race, Privilege, and the Canadian Wilderness.” The Walrus, 14 Nov. 2019.

Morgan is a Canadian writer of Jamaican heritage. In his essay “Race, Privilege, and the Canadian Wilderness” he observes that while closeness to the natural environment has traditionally been a cherished feature of Canadian identity, “Black people have been—and remain—curiously absent from the amalgam of snow-capped mountains, rivers, forests, and animals often collectively labelled ‘nature’ here in Canada.” Morgan considers the implications of this exclusion and also reflects on the problem of “belonging” within Canadian land that has been taken from Indigenous Peoples.

Lanham, J. Drew. “Birding While Black.” LitHub, 22 Sep. 2016.

Lanham is an American ecologist and writer. His essay “Birding While Black” is a disturbing account of anti-Black racism in the context of birdwatching and ecology.

Hopkins, Hop. “Racism Is Killing the Planet.” Sierra, 8 June 2020.

Hop Hopkins is a writer for the Sierra Club, an environmental organization in the United States. In “Racism Is Killing the Planet,” Hopkins considers the wide-ranging problem of environmental racism, arguing that “we will never survive the climate crisis without ending white supremacy.”

McKay, Don. Field Marks: The Poetry of Don McKay. Introduction by Méira Cook, Wilfred Laurier UP, 2006.

A final poem you may wish to consider is McKay's “Song for the Song of the Varied Thrush.” Listen to the call of a varied thrush. Then listen to McKay’s reading of the poem. Among other elements, you might consider the use of pauses in this poem.

Assignment 2
Guptill, Amy. Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence. BC Campus, OpenEd, 2020.

Please read

  • Chapter 4: Secondary Sources in Their Natural Habitats
  • Chapter 5: Listening to Sources, Talking to Sources

Unit 4: H Is for Hawk

Unit 5: The Sasquatch at Home

Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. “‘Bubbling Like a Beating Heart’: Reflections on Nishnaabeg Poetic and Narrative Consciousness.” Indigenous Poetics in Canada, edited by Neal McLeod, Wilfred Laurier UP, 2013, pp. 107–119.
Supplementary Reading and Viewing
Canadian Art Junkie. “45/150: Rebecca Belmore—Facing the Monumental.” 150 Artists.
Belmore, Rebecca. “Rebecca Belmore, Winnipeg (MB, Canada).” Intensions, vol. 6, Fall/Winter 2012.

This piece includes a video of Belmore’s performance art for the Mapping Resistances exhibition that was part of the Ode’Min Giizis Festival, June 17–18, 2010, in Peterborough, Ontario. To see Belmore’s performance, click on the thumbnail of the image, and then on the video that opens.

Belmore, Rebecca. Rebecca Belmore.

This is Belmore’s website.

Scofield, Gregory. “I’ll Teach You Cree.” Poetry in Voice, 2019.

Scofield is a Métis writer who has published many books of poetry and taught creative writing at universities across Canada. You may wish to consider how his poem “I’ll Teach You Cree” approaches some of the concerns that Simpson raises in “‘Bubbling Like a Beating Heart’: Reflections on Nishnaabeg Poetic and Narrative Consciousness.”

Upper One Games and the Iñupiat. Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna). Never Alone website.

Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is a video game developed in coordination with the Iñupiat, an Indigenous People in Alaska. In the game, an Iñupiat girl and an arctic fox try to find the source of a deadly blizzard. Assessing this game gives you the opportunity to consider Indigenous artistic practice in a different medium.

Note that you can watch the game’s trailer or watch a Never Alone: Full Game walkthrough. However, if you wish to play the game, you must purchase it.

Younging, Gregory. Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples. Brush, 2018.

Please consult Younging's book as necessary for details about writing about Indigenous Peoples that go beyond the best practices summarize above.

Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). “Guide to Acknowledging First Peoples & Traditional Territory.” CAUT.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has published this “Guide to Acknowledging First Peoples & Traditional Territory,” which you may find useful, especially if you choose to write about your own home place in Assignment 3.

Assignment 3
Assignment 3 Video

Assignment 3 Video Transcript

Unit 6: The Anthropocene and Its Erasures

Yaeger, Patricia, et al. “Editor’s Column: Literature in the Ages of Wood, Tallow, Coal, Whale Oil, Gasoline, Atomic Power, and Other Energy Sources.” PMLA, vol. 126, no. 2, 2011, pp. 305–326.

Please read the introductory section by Patricia Yaeger (pp. 305–310) and “Literature and Energy Futures” by Imre Szeman (pp. 323–325). You may also wish to read some of the other sections in this article.

Whyte, Kyle. “Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene.” English Language Notes, vol. 55, no. 1–2, 2017, pp. 153–162.
Haraway, Donna. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin.” Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 159–165.
Heise, Ursula K. “Science Fiction and the Time Scales of the Anthropocene.” ELH, vol. 86, no. 2, 2019, pp. 275–304.
Major, Alice. “In Medias Res.” Welcome to the Anthropocene. U of Alberta Press, 2018, p. 3.
Major, Alice. “Welcome to the Anthropocene.” Welcome to the Anthropocene. U of Alberta Press, 2018, pp. 7–27.
Supplementary Reading and Viewing
Davis, Heather, and Etienne Turpin, eds. Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. Open Humanities P, 2015.

Please read “Indigenizing the Anthropocene,” by Zoe Todd (pp. 241–254).

Zoe Todd, a Métis scholar, is a professor of anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa. Her chapter “Indigenizing the Anthropocene,” from Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, uses personal reflections to develop an account of how Indigenous perspectives exist at the margins in Canada. She aims to show “how Indigenous scholarship can accomplish what anthropological and arts discourses struggle to do: decolonize the academy and its contemporary concerns, including the Anthropocene” (249).

Kahn, Andrew, and Jamelle Bouie. “The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes.” Slate, 2019.

“The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes” is an animation produced by Andrew Kahn and Jamelle Bouie for Slate magazine. The map shows a time-lapse representation of the ships that carried enslaved people from Africa to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries. This may seem like an unusual text for a course in the environmental humanities, but the horrifying scale of the transport of enslaved Africans gives a sense of how deeply the entire economy of the Western world, and therefore how much of its ecological interactions, are founded on the slave trade.

Yusoff, Kathryn. “Golden Spikes and Dubious Origins.” A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, U of Minnesota P, 2018.

Kathryn Yusoff is a professor of “inhuman geography” at Queen Mary University of London, in the United Kingdom. Her book A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None argues that the notion of the Anthropocene must be understood in the context of racism, colonization, and slavery. In the chapter “Golden Spikes and Dubious Origins,” Yusoff considers the question of when the Anthropocene can be said to have begun. Some scholars have argued that the Anthropocene started when Europeans colonized the Americas, some believe that the starting point should be considered the Industrial Revolution, and others (perhaps a majority) see the beginning of the Anthropocene in the twentieth century, during the era of “nuclear isotopes from missile testing” (para. 2), which will leave distinct geological traces into the deep future.

Yusoff steps back from this argument. Instead, she challenges the deeper assumptions underpinning this kind of discourse. Focusing on anti-Black racism in particular, she writes that “the origins of the Anthropocene are intensely political in how they draw the world of the present into being and give shape and race to its world-making subjects” (para. 2). Yusoff’s book makes for very challenging reading, in terms of both style and substance, but her argument is important for considering how the notion of the Anthropocene risks glossing over the conditions of exploitation and violence that inform the lived experience of many people.

Pope, Alexander. “Epistle 1.” 1733. An Essay on Man, Representative Poetry Online, University of Toronto Libraries, 2021.

Unit 7: Aurora

Unit 7 Introduction Video

Unit 7 Introduction Video Transcript
End of Course Video  

End of Course Video Transcript

Writing Resources

Guptill, Amy. Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence. BC Campus, OpenEd, 2020.
The Write Site. English Grammar Handbook. Athabasca University, 2020.
Younging, Gregory. Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples. Brush, 2018.

Assignment Resources

MLA Style Essay Template and Sample Self Reflection
Sample Essay (Assignment 2): Newman, Shelley. “We Don’t Want to Know: Defamiliarization Stops Short in ‘Song for Beef Cattle’ by Don McKay.” 2021.
Sample Video Assignment: Gedak, Mark. “The Staging of Where the Blood Mixes by Kevin Loring.” 2020.
Interview About a Critical Analysis in the Form of a Comic Book: Orpana, Simon, and Caleb Wellum. Helios 1: Simon Orpana’s Gasoline Dreams. Energy Humanities, 3 May 2021.
A Guide to Academic Podcasting: Copeland, Stacey, and Hannah McGregor. A Guide to Academic Podcasting. AMPlify Podcast Network.