This is a guest post by Professor Tara Friedman, Senior Lecturer in English. Professor Friedman is ABD at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; she teaches a wide range of courses in Widener’s English department, and specializes in American literature.
On Tuesday, May 2, I had the opportunity to bring 32 students, all of whom were enrolled in English 124: Literature and Environment, to Linvilla Orchards thanks in part to a Faculty Mini-Grant. These students participated in a Hayride Tour geared toward the topics of sustainable agriculture, deep ecology, and the history of farming and its practices in Pennsylvania.
After the tour, students took part in a Q&A while making their own biodegradable lettuce pots and sampling apples and cider from the orchards. They were then asked to each write a 1-2-page SOA (Summary, Observation, and Analysis) essay connecting what they learned at Linvilla Orchards to our class. It was such a joy to have students engage with the natural world outside of the classroom and our course readings – they didn’t even mind the light drizzle!
ENGL 124 is offered regularly in the fall and spring. Here is the course description:
The literary imagination has depicted the natural world in varied ways—as untamed wilderness, pastoral ideal, scenic and sublime landscapes, and the damaged and threatened environment of industrialized society. Whenever human impact on the non-human environment has changed, authors have continued re-imagining nature’s significance and rethinking relationships between environment, self, and society. In this course, students explore how the natural environment gets mythologized, celebrated, altered, lost, lamented, and recovered in works of classic and contemporary literature. The course investigates the work of nature writing as a genre—its common tropes, archetypes, and aesthetic strategies. Students use literary interpretation as a lens for seeing and reflecting on a range of environmental issues such as sustainability, ecology, urbanization, pollution, overpopulation, consumerism, tourism, climate change, animal rights, and land stewardship. They are also asked to situate their own experience of nature into environmental discourse.