ENG2532 – The Green American Tradition

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

We all know about ecosystems but we act as if our machines have freed us from nature and given us over to social constructions and fantasies of complete liberation. We tend to think our social and political concerns are the starting point for understanding life, rather than to imagine where we stand in the larger order of things. This reflects the rise of civilization and the age of humankind (now called the "Anthropocene"). “Complex societies” – what are they?: systems of production and control that make us feel safe and give us the illusion of complete freedom. But sometimes by reflecting on the social and technical consequences of the “mega-machine” (L. Mumford), we sense our vulnerability.

The novelist H.G. Wells shocked the self-assured Victorian world by spinning a yarn in which alien beings, possessing a technology far superior to our own, bring us very near to the “rout of civilization.” Such fears have now taken a realer more frightening form: are we not the aliens – having undergone a “severing” from nature (T. Morton) – who have introduced the technology that will bring about the ‘rout of the earth’? In this course we will examine works of classic American nature writing – explorations of beauty, place and the organic – that responded to technological and geo-environmental change by seeking to revisit “the severing” and thereby reach for other ways to define who we are.

Learning outcome

After completing this course, you:

  • can discuss the relation between technology and social and aesthetic experience of environment;
  • can consider/explore the relationality of nature, culture, environment and geography;
  • can explain the development of sensibilities of beauty, place and the organic within specific socio-cultural contexts;
  • can narrate the specific cultural and geo-environmental circumstances that lead to American nature writing have an insight into the relation between the imagination and the social world;
  • can reflect on the dangers to humanity and the biosphere posed by doctrines of automatic technological progress, consumerism and rule by experts;
  • have improved your skills in critical and intuitive reading.


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.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Admission to the course is required to attend seminars.


Recommended previous knowledge

Background knowledge in American culture and history as well as British and/or American literature is recommended. The following courses are particularly helpful: ENG1506 – American Civilization, ENG1304 – American Literature or equivalent courses.

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.


Seminar, two hours per week for 10 weeks, 20 hours in total.

Obligatory activity:

  • Attendance is an obligatory class requirement (8 out of 10 seminars). Additional absences must be justified by documentation. Read more about rules concerning valid excuses and how to apply for approved absences or postponements here
  • Read more about guidelines for compulsory activities.

You will be given the opportunity to hand in a first draft of your paper, and receive feedback on this.

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 form of assessment is a term paper of 10–15 standard pages (a standard page consists of 2,300 characters).

You choose the topic of the term paper from questions provided by the lecturer.

Previous exams and assessment guidelines

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

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

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

For those who want to retake their exam: Since this exam includes a term paper, you must follow the classes and write a new paper in order to qualify. Admission depends on capacity.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

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.

Reports from periodic evaluations (in Norwegian)

Facts about this course






Spring 2021


Spring 2021

Teaching language