ENG4532 – The Green American Tradition

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The term "green tradition" was coined in the 1970s by a prominent literary scholar. It refers to a body of American writing, criticism, architecture and painting that reflects on the interaction of nature, landscape and society. These texts from the 19th and 20th centuries provide the content of this course. We will examine their intrinsic value for reflection on the human condition, but also evaluate their potential usefulness in light of current environmental issues, which have become predominant concerns of our time.

It has now been 50 years since the celebration of the first Earth Day in the US and nearly 37 years since the founding of Die Grünen in Germany. Environmentalism has gone from a fringe idea to a global agenda. It has appropriated the term “green” by setting forth a highly politicized agenda focused on global climate change and income redistribution. Solutions are relentlessly high tech: hyper-urbanism, artificial agriculture, and “smart” technologies are  presented as the only feasible responses to the global environmental crisis. The course will examine the American “green tradition” as a potential alternative or corrective to these developments.

Learning outcome

After completing this course, you:

  • can consider/explore the relationality of nature, culture, and environment;
  • can explain the development of sensibilities of beauty, place and the organic in general and within specific 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.

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.


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

Obligatory activities:

  • For spring 2021, attendance is not obligatory, but it is highly recommended.
  • During the semester, you are required to give an oral presentation in class. 
  • 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 also be given the opportunity to hand in a first draft of your term paper.


The form of assessment is a term paper consisting of three essays. You chose topics from questions provided by the lecturer. The first two essays are 3 pages in length and written in response to an assigned topic. The papers are submitted during the semester and returned with commentary attached. The third is five pages long, based on a topic chosen from a list provided by the instructor. It is composed at the end of the semester and is submitted along with revised versions of the first two essays as the course examination. Total required written production is 11 pages. (NB: a standard page consists of 2,300 characters).

Previously given exam assignments 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

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.

Reports from periodic evaluations (in Norwegian)

Facts about this course






Spring 2021

This course is taught irregularly


Spring 2021

Teaching language