Students - Center for the Arts and Humanities

Environmental humanities

Growing Together

  • Each year, Colby faculty offer a wealth of courses in the environmental humanities and across an array of disciplines. Whether it’s through the economics of food inequality, nature photography on the Colby Island Campus, Kafka’s connection to the non-human world or more, EH-affiliated faculty are bringing critical humanistic perspectives to today’s environmental issues, and shaping the Colby community in the process.

Course Work Fall 2022

AR97a

AR297A

Nature Now: A Photographic Exploration of Allen and Benner Islands

Gary Green

An introduction to the tools, materials, and techniques for making analog photographs, including camera operation, use of a light meter, film processing, and darkroom printing. At the core of this course will be a single semester-long exploration of Allen and Benner Islands. Since photography’s invention in 1839, it has been central to the activities of travel and exploration. During three excursions–two overnight–to the islands students will do the majority or all of their photographing. Overnight trips will be Friday-Saturday. Prerequisite: rt major, minor, or permission of instructor.

AR297B

AR297B

Printmaking as Transformation in Ecological Thinking

Amanda Lilleston

To print is to transform. Print and Ecological Thinking harnesses the transformational creative power of printmaking to explore the ever-changing environment. Through interconnected field trip, seminar, and studio components, students will learn to see the local Maine environment by engaging with field ecologists, examine humans’ relationships to nature and a creative person’s relationship to place, and finally transform sights, sounds, smells and emotions into visual representations: marks, forms, color, and action. Students will become familiar with the printmaking studio and learn foundational printmaking techniques. Field trip locations include: Allen Island, the Orono Bog, and the Perkins Arboretum.

AR297B

AR397B

Animal Modernities

Daniel Harkett

This humanities lab explores how non-human animals were imagined in the visual culture of nineteenth-century Europe and America. We will ask: How did images and objects propose affinities between humans and non-human animals? How did animal representation become the vehicle for human fantasy and desire? How did those fantasies and desires intersect with imperialism, capitalism, and discourses of identity? And what possibilities exist for recovering the non-human animal gaze by looking at human-made objects? Students will address these questions by participating in weekly discussions of readings and by conducting a research project.

AY221

AY221

Of Beasts, Pets, and Wildlife: What Animals Mean to Humans

Suzanne Menair

Explores human-animal relations in cross-cultural and historical perspective to view the centrality of animals to human existence. Considers the social, symbolic, and economic uses of animals in a variety of contexts, from cockfighting in Bali to the corporate culture of Sea World to central Maine farms. Examines the history and philosophies of the animal rights movement from the anti-vivisection campaigns of 19th-century England to contemporary animal rights protests in the United States. Concludes with an analysis of human animality and animal subjectivity to arrive at a deeper understanding of both human and non-human animals. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112 or Philosophy 113 or 114.

AY256

AY256

Land, Food, Culture, and Power

Mary Beth Mills

An examination of cultural and political aspects of land and other resource use, using the lens of political ecology and, a variety of ethnographic examples in different parts of the world. Case studies focus on ongoing conflicts over contested resources and related efforts to challenge experiences of environmental and food injustices. Students will apply conceptual tools from political ecology and environmental anthropology to develop a research project on a relevant topic of their choosing. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112.

EN283

EN283

Environmental Humanities: Stories of Crisis and Resilience

Christopher Walker

What can literature teach us about nature and environmental justice? Do the humanities and environmental studies share a vision of a sustainable future? Is it possible to understand climate change without telling stories about its uneven global impacts? To address these and other questions, we will examine how the environmental humanities implicitly respond to the “two cultures” debate. We will then investigate the relationship between environmental justice and western societies’ extractive logics, economies, and management of nature. From within this theoretical framework we will analyze novels, poetry, and environmental films. Fulfills English C and D requirements.

EN350

EN350

Another World is Possible: Ecotopian Visions

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson

In this moment of climate emergency, it is imperative to develop alternatives to fossil-fueled liberal capitalism. This course explores visions of positive environmental futures that can inspire imaginations and movements by examining how various thinkers and communities have depicted better, more sustainable, and more just worlds. With a diverse range of texts, we pair literature, language, film, video, architecture, and manifestos with critical scholarship from relevant fields. Fulfills English C, D, and LE requirements. Prerequisite: Any W1 course.

EN357

EN357

Literature and Environment

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson

Introduces students to the history and diverse traditions of global environmental writing. By analyzing this tradition, students will gain mastery over a range of methods for interpreting representations of nature, human-environment relations, and nonhuman animals, with a focus on how these representations intersect with the history of environmental racism and environmental justice movements. Topics may include the history of ecocriticism, ecopoetics, queer ecologies, animal studies, posthumanism, and postcolonial ecocriticism. Fulfills English C requirement. Prerequisite: English 200 or 283.

EN493N

EN493N

Seminar: 17th-century Literature and the Natural World

Elizabeth Sagaser

Explores English literature written during the scientific revolution, including Shakespeare’s King Lear, poems and prose by 17th-c. women, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. How do these texts imagine the natural world and the human within it? How do they propose or challenge boundaries between human and non-human animals? How do attitudes toward the environment emerge, change and persist in literary history and more broadly in the history of ideas? We seek answers through lively reading strategies, creative exercises, and research both online and in Special Collections archives. Fulfills English E, LE, and P requirements.

GM297

GM297

Animals, Hybrids, and Machines: Franz Kafka and the Non-Human

Alicia Ellis

An exploration of ambivalent forms of beings that include but are not limited to a singing mouse, a distressed mole, and a metallic automaton. Instead of a singular focus on the human, we will read texts that do not center the normative human as central to an understanding of the material. In this course, the human is not entirely abandoned but just moved to the periphery so that we can associate with the other identities that shape our world. We examine how the animal, the hybrid, and the machine show us different definitions of a kind of life that can be called melancholic, heroic, or even tragic. Readings will be taken primarily from the works of Franz Kafka. We will also engage other texts, essays, poems, and films from the 19th/20th centuries that have also shaped literary expression. Prerequisite: German 128 or equivalent.

HI348

HI348

U.S. Environmental History

Danae Jacobson

We will consider nature’s role in shaping history. How do our stories change when we include microbes, pigs, and the climate, alongside subjects like presidents, wars, and ideas? We will also ask what nature has meant to a range of people including the Comanche on the Great Plains, settler-farmers in New England, and coal miners in Colorado. The aim is that you begin to think about nature differently: how ideas about nature have changed, how nature surrounds & nourishes us and has been used to justify violence & racism, and how nature impedes on our lives.

PL126

PL126

Philosophy and the Environment

Keith Peterson

An introduction to philosophy through prominent questions and themes in environmental philosophy. Topics include the historical context and causes of environmental crisis, anthropocentrism, animal rights, intrinsic value, biocentrism, ecocentrism, and radical social theories, incorporating core philosophical issues in ethics, philosophical anthropology, and nature philosophy. These provide resources for clear and creative reasoning on the philosophical aspects of creating sustainable communities, for reflection on value priorities, and for exploration of relationships between academic work and social responsibility.

RE128

RE218

Global South Asia: Literature, Art, Environment

Nikki Singh

Explores South Asians in their diasporic and transnational context. What contributions are Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Jews, and Sikhs from the South Asian subcontinent making to contemporary global literature, film, art, and environmentalism? How do tradition and modernity intersect in their works? How do they negotiate religion, gender, sexuality, race, class, environmentalism, medicine, and globalization? Includes writings by Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Hanif Kureishi, Shashi Tharoor; films by Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta; art by Siona Benjamin, Anish Kapoor, M.F. Husain, Arpana Caur, Singh Twins; and the environmentalist works of Vandana Shiva and Maneka Gandhi.

WP115i

WP115I

First-Year Writing: Landscape and Place

Carolyn Megan

Reading fiction, essays, and poetry, we will explore the nature of place and landscape as physical, social, and intellectual and consider what it suggests about American culture and ideas. We will consider how place and landscape, both real and imagined, influence writers as well as how these concerns influence our own lives as readers, writers, thinkers, and dreamers. In this first-year writing course, students will write personal narratives, argument, and synthesis as well as develop their critical reading skills.

Jan Plan

ES224

ES224

Creative Environmental Storytelling

Brooke Williams

Explores the roles of awe, mindfulness, and active imagination in environmental writing. Students will be encouraged to access their “inner hermit” and explore how, as biological beings, we can create effective storytelling to envision a future where all life thrives. Students will explore the writings of others and practice writing their own stories. Introduces the idea of the evolutionary body and how it can relate to effective engagement for positive environmental change. Previously offered as Environmental Studies 297C (Jan Plan 2019).

Spring 2023

Em228

AM228

Nature and the Built Environment

Ben Lisle

Built environments order human experience and action, shaping people’s sense of themselves and the world. We examine how the built environment has influenced and expressed Americans’ relationships with nature. We track how ideas about the natural environment emerge in different historical and geographical settings and consider the material and environmental consequences of these beliefs. Topics include park design, suburban development, environmental justice campaigns, and green building. In this reading-intensive discussion course, students develop abilities to interpret material, spatial, visual, and historical evidence.

CL254

CL254

Natural Disasters in Antiquity and Beyond

James Taylor

For many of us earthquakes, tsunamis, or volcanic eruptions are rare moments in which nature reveals its full power and exposes the weak foundations upon which our daily lives are based. The proliferation of recording equipment has allowed these moments to be vicariously witnessed like never before, and responses range from relief campaigns to watching fictive re-imaginings at our local cinema. This Environmental Humanities course interrogates our own cultural attitudes towards natural disasters by grappling with the equally complex responses to such events in antiquity and the radically different cultural frameworks that underpinned them.

EA120

EA120

Nature in East Asian Literature and Culture

Kim Besio

Combines readings of traditional literature with an exploration of the perceived relationship between nature and man, as reflected in the literary, visual, and material culture of China, Japan, and Korea. Students will improve writing skills through weekly writing reflections, two short essays, and one research paper. Other goals include, hone analytical skills through close reading of East Asian texts; reflect critically on the relationship between the natural world and man in East Asian culture, and how these views might enrich our own; and acquire an understanding of how literature and art can both shape and reflect our world view.

EA242

EA242

Development and Environmental Issues in Contemporary China

Hong Zhang

Will use textbooks and reading materials that provide the social science approach in studying environmental issues in China. Although China is the second largest economy in the world, it is still a developing country on the per capita basis. This course will explore the issues of developmental rights vs. environmental protection, and environmental justice and the human and health costs of ecological degradation and industrial pollution at the global level.

EN120H

EN120H

Language, Thought, and Writing: Animal / Human / Machine

Christopher Walker

What counts as “writing”? Can a bacteria or an algorithm write poetry? Is “creativity” an exclusively human activity or an inherent property of all life? In this writing-intensive course we will address these and other questions as we hone our critical thinking and reading, develop our research abilities, and refine our writing and editing skills. Engaging philosophical essays, poetry, plays, and film, we will analyze how the categories of “human,” “animal,” and “machine” are historically constructed, politically mobilized, and ethically fraught.

EN283

EN283

Environmental Humanities: Stories of Crisis and Resilience

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson

What can literature teach us about nature and environmental justice? Do the humanities and environmental studies share a vision of a sustainable future? Is it possible to understand climate change without telling stories about its uneven global impacts? To address these and other questions, we will examine how the environmental humanities implicitly respond to the “two cultures” debate. We will then investigate the relationship between environmental justice and western societies’ extractive logics, economies, and management of nature. From within this theoretical framework we will analyze novels, poetry, and environmental films. Fulfills English C and D requirements.

Hang and Rattle: The West in the American Imaginary​

EN352

Hang and Rattle: The West in the American Imaginary

Cedric Bryant

How did the American West as a geography of the imagination and of reality, as a “middle ground” located somewhere between the “actual and the apocryphal,” engage the 19th- and 20th-century national debate about American identity? Moreover, how did the cowboy, the signal figure of the “open range;” science and technology’s “machine[s] in the garden;” and transformative ideas about time, place, gender, race, and morality all contribute to the making and unmaking of an American imaginary in literature, film, politics, and popular music? Fulfills English C, D, and LE requirements. Prerequisite: Any W1 course. Four credit hours

Hang and Rattle: The West in the American Imaginary​

EN398B

Pastoral Gaze: Nature and Kinship in 17th Century Pastoral Poetry

Elizabeth Sagaser

xamines 17th Century pastoral poetry by Shakespeare, Lanyer, Jonson, Milton, Herrick, Donne, Philips, and Behn through the pastoral gaze. How is nature constructed in pastoral and what fantasies, myths, and desires are projected onto the natural world? Which entities are granted kinship and who is left out? How does this legacy continue to shape perspectives on nature today and how do writers and artists, past and present, challenge it? We explore these questions through reading, discussion, creative activities/assignments, and regular engagement with the Colby Art Museum to expand awareness of ways human beings represent the natural world over time.

EN493i

EN493I

Seminar: Narrating Deep Time

Christopher Walker

Can we tell stories that span 1,000, 10,000, or a million years? Can lived experience be contextualized not only by our social worlds but by unfolding geological and evolutionary temporalities? What formal techniques-time lapse, montage, allegory-might be used to convey that our creaturely fragility is shared not only with species contemporaneous to us, but with species extinct before we ever knew them? Guided by these and other questions, this Humanities Lab will analyze the central role of narrative in apprehending environmental impacts that unfold across deep time. Utilizing contemporary ecofeminist and environmental theories, we will consider the relationship between time, narrative, and character in novels by Hanya Yanagihara, Octavia Butler, Virginia Woolf, and H.G. Wells. Fulfills C, D, and LE requirements.

EN493L

Women, Science, and Politics in 17th Century Literature

Dyani Taff

Can a poet, or a poem, do science? Does gender matter when we’re talking about early modern science and politics in England? In this seminar, we will explore the poems and other writings of three poets who might have said “yes” to both of these questions: Hester Pulter, Margaret Cavendish, and John Milton. We will investigate the impacts of the English Civil Wars and Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura on these poets’ work, and examine their unconventional theories about scientia, natural philosophy, erotic desire and marriage, monarchy and the gender of political subjecthood, biblical and artistic creation, and humans and their relations to nonhumans.

ES118

ES118

Environment and Society

Denise Bruesewitz

An introduction to the multi study of the relationship between humans and the world around us. Through an examination of the most pressing environmental problems–such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental racism–students will be introduced to methods and key concepts of Environmental Studies. Through lectures, case studies, and collaborative work, students will assess the strengths and weaknesses of approaching environmental problems from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and gain tools to work toward a more just environmental future.

HI348

HI120G

What is Nature? The U.S. Environment and Histories of Settler-Colonialism, Slavery and Capitalism

Danae Jacobson

An introduction to the multi study of the relationship between humans and the world around us. Through an examination of the most pressing environmental problems–such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental racism–students will be introduced to methods and key concepts of Environmental Studies. Through lectures, case studies, and collaborative work, students will assess the strengths and weaknesses of approaching environmental problems from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and gain tools to work toward a more just environmental future.

HI348

IT246

Wild Writing: A Comparative Experiential Approach to Ecopoetics (in English)

Danila Cannamela

Explores how the notion of “wilderness” has shifted across epochs and cultures. Students will conduct textual analysis of contemporary poetry and lyrical prose, compare and contrast Italian and English literature, and engage in experiential activities, including hands-on projects and a writing retreat on Colby Island Campus, led by British ecopoet Helen Moore. Conducted in English

PL243

PL243

Environmental Ethics

Keith Peterson

Aims to familiarize students with the many philosophical approaches that have been developed over the past few decades in response to the environmental crisis. It covers not only classical issues such as anthropocentrism and the intrinsic value of nature, but also supplies the conceptual tools needed to tackle the complex ethical, political, cultural, scientific, and practical dimensions of human relations to more-than-human nature. Special attention will be devoted to the topics of nonhuman animals, food, energy, and climate change.

SPCXX3

SP344

Environmental Knowledge, Imperialism, and Resistance

Luis Millones

European expansion during the Early Modern period sought to transform the Americas by reproducing the material, spiritual, and biological landscapes of the Old World. Amerindian peoples whose lives, cultures, and environments were jeopardized confronted the European actions and ideas by deploying an array of resistance strategies. We study this process to understand the confrontations surrounding environmental knowledge, imperialism, and resistance in our postcolonial reality. Students will engage with texts, images, and other materials from different areas and time periods to learn theories and to develop a critical perspective on the history of the encounter of cultures.

Queer Feminist STS​

ST298A

Queer Feminist STS

Ashton Wesner

This seminar asks you to engage with, and undertake, interdisciplinary academic work at an advanced level. Our discussions depart from a foundational argument: That dichotomous thinking about “humans” vs. “nature” coproduces scientific practices that have privileged the lives and perspectives of “First World” men in particular, at the expense of the views and realities of historically marginalized social actors. We will examine how queer, feminist, critical race, crip and indigenous theoretical approaches have historicized and disrupted common understandings of scientific research and practices, human and nonhuman bodies, and environments and ecologies. Far from a comprehensive genealogy of these lines of thought and practice, this seminar weaves a multidisciplinary set of cases and analyses that allows us to borrow from, and create with, the diversity of interventions in STS.

WP115i

WP115I

First-Year Writing: Landscape and Place

Carolyn Megan

Reading fiction, essays, and poetry, we will explore the nature of place and landscape as physical, social, and intellectual and consider what it suggests about American culture and ideas. We will consider how place and landscape, both real and imagined, influence writers as well as how these concerns influence our own lives as readers, writers, thinkers, and dreamers. In this first-year writing course, students will write personal narratives, argument, and synthesis as well as develop their critical reading skills.