ENG4532 – The Green American Tradition
Key words – frontier, industrialization, commodification, nature, wildness, wilderness, natural landscape, place, modernization, modernity
This course in American Studies and the Environmental Humanities considers how the development of an industrialized, technologically sophisticated society has shaped culture and the relation to nature. The course has been inspired by environmentalism, which arose as a political movement and an academic specialty from the 1970s, as an attempt to develop a greater awareness of the interaction of natural processes and human societies. But the larger purpose of environmentalism – the examination of the technologies and values that mediate our relation to nature – has been stifled in recent years by those who link environmentalism to postmodern politics or to bureaucratic politics; our attention has been focused almost exclusively on climate change – in the process missing the deeper meaning of an environmental perspective.
To be clear: this course is not concerned directly with the problems of contemporary environmentalism. We proceed instead by developing a retrospective view through writers who constitute what has been called a green American tradition in writing. It is green because it is broadly concerned with an attempt to encompass life; it is American because it was a response to American conditions and possibilities. There can be no lasting separation between society and writing, but neither is one reducible to the other. Accordingly, this course roots perception of environment by writers in American social and material life. We examine the history of environment as an “externality.” Environment encompasses all of us, in the sense that its exploitation is the basis for our survival, but it also has become the object of ruthless mistreatment and more recently of soulless management. Historically, the conquest of the American west, the triumph of industrialization, the commodity revolution, the mechanization of agriculture produced an unprecedented disconnect between culture and nature. Yet ironically by doing so the captains of American industry and society inadvertently provoked a reaction and as writers recalled the earlier American pluralism and localism they created an imaginative space to reclaim human feelings – toward exploration and freedom, beauty, intuition, holism, place-awareness, and toward the unplanned and uncalculated. These writers produced a virtual transformation in the understanding of the human relation to our surroundings – expressed in relation to what is commonly called “the natural world.” Although the potential for change suggested by many of these writers has not been realized in the political sense and might well be inappropriate for our own time, it remains a body of literature that is perhaps one of the more important examples of nay saying to the world that relentless commodification and modernization is creating for us.
After completing this course, you:
- understand the dilemmas pertaining to the implementation of first wave environmentalism.
- can consider remedies to addressing these dilemmas through political analysis developed in the course.
- have excellent skills in critical and intuitive thinking and writing.
Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.
Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.
If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.
The course has a capacity of 15 students. The department will not provide additional capacity if there are more applicants.
Recommended previous knowledge
Good reading skills in English and a foundation in one or more of the following disciplines: history of ideas, social geography, literature, American history and politics.
- 10 credits overlap with ENG2532 – The Green American Tradition
- 10 credits overlap with NORAM4585 – Restoring the Earth/Renewing Culture: Critical Evaluations of the Green American Tradition (continued)
- 9 credits overlap with NORAM2585 – Restoring the Earth/Renewing Culture: Critical Evaluations of the Green American Tradition (continued)
Seminar, two hours per week for 13 weeks, 26 hours in total.
Attendance is obligatory at least 10 out of 13 seminars. Additional absences must be justified by documentation given to the exam coordinator.
During the semester, you are required to give an oral presentation in class. Read more about guidelines for compulsory activities.
You will also be given the opportunity to hand in a first draft of your term paper.
Access to teaching
A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.
The assessment of the course is based on a term paper on a topic chosen from a list provided by the instructor.
Submit assignments in Inspera
You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.
Use of sources and citation
Language of examination
The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.
Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.
Explanations and appeals
Resit an examination
Withdrawal from an examination
It is not possible to submit the same term paper a later semester. If you want to re-take your exam, you must write on a different topic.
Special examination arrangements
Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.
The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.