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Teaching the Environment
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Modern Language Association annual convention, Jan. 6-9, 2011
The following panel proposal is being co-sponsered by the College English Assoication and the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment for consideration for the 2011 MLA meeting.
In his Forward to the recent MLA publication Teaching North American Environmental Literature (2008), John Tallmadge recognizes that the study and teaching of “environmental literature is still an emerging field” open to almost every genre and period when analyzing texts. Lawrence Buell believes that the environment should be “seen as indispensible to how one reads literature—whether the specific project be the environmental literacy of a text, its way of situating itself locally and/or globally, its attention or inattention to the non-human sphere, or its ideological valence(s) with regard to receptivity or opacity to social justice issues” (The Future of Environmental Criticism, 2005). Still, many questions and concerns arise when considering the ecocritical context of a literary text. In light of the growing number of environment and literature classes being offered at colleges and universities in the U.S., what does it mean to “teach the environment?” How do we connect the figurative world within the text to the literal world we actually occupy? How can we reconcile the mind/body/nature/culture split more effectively? What types of theoretical approaches work/do not work? This panel will consider the ethical imperative to raise environmental issues in today’s classrooms as well as the variety of ways in which those issues can be taught through literature. Paper proposals should explore representations of nature and environments (natural and built) through texts from any period, with a special focus on pedagogical strategies that engage students in relating those representations to current ecocritical and environmental concerns.
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