Nature in America: Citizenship and Ethics (Spring 2018)

Nature in America: Citizenship and Ethics - Dr. Eva Swidler

Spring 2018 M/Th 10:30-11:50 am

What is “nature,” anyway? Can human activity and its consequences ever be “natural”? What are our responsibilities in this age of environmental anxieties? In this survey of American environmental history, we’ll discuss topics as diverse as historical ecology, the evolution of ideas of nature, and the history of environmental movements. We’ll graze over archaeology and the Paleolithic, city dwellers and farmers, wilderness parks and empty city lots. We’ll sample some of the wide array of writing in this field (which is over 40 years old now) to help us think about how our understandings of history and the natural world shape our understanding of the environmental problems of today, and how our ideas of the past shape our ideas of what the future should hold. This course involves a wide variety of reading, including excerpts, chapters, and articles, as well as segments of several books. The class sessions are discussions, based on the readings. There will be several written assignments throughout the semester, but no in-class exams.