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Swarthmore College    
College Bulletin - Course Catalog 
  Dec 11, 2017
College Bulletin - Course Catalog

ENVS 044. Materials that Matter: Environmental Literature in the Anthropocene

(Cross-listed as ENGL 089B )
Coal. Oil. Plastic. Plutonium. Carbon Dioxide. These are materials that matter; in very real ways, these materials structure our lives-they impact our health, our politics, and may even threaten the existence of life itself. Ironically, because these materials permeate nearly every aspect of our existence, the human mind can struggle to comprehend them. In this course, we will read literature that helps us bring humans' relationship to these materials into focus. Scientific, historical, and economic studies of these materials tend to focus on their scale and widespread impact. Reading poetry, plays, short stories, and novels will allow us to imagine these materials more intimately-through individual, cultural, and aesthetic perspectives.  In this course, students will ask: How can literature help us to understand our material, economic, and social environments? How has our relationship to materials changed over time? How do environmental and material realities impact cultural production and imagination? Primary texts might include Upton Sinclair's Oil! (1926-27); Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962); Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge (1991); Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony (1977); Mark Nowak's Coal Mountain Elementary (2009); Andrew Bovell's When the Rain Stops Falling (2012); and Adam Dickinson'sThe Polymers (2013).  Course requirements include participation; an oral presentation; a close-reading paper or midterm project; and a final paper. All students are welcome.
1 credit.
Eligible for ENVS
Fall 2017. Price.
Catalog chapter: Environmental Studies  
Department website:

Check the Fall 2017 Schedule of Courses

Check the Spring 2018 Schedule of Courses