We English instructors are free to propose each year what we'd like to cover in any of the department's variable-content courses. Courses can't cover the same ground within any rolling three-year period, and some years, the department's Curriculum Committee decides that some variable-content courses shouldn't run at all, so I'm feeling very lucky these days.
Here's the description that was approved for the course to be offered in September 2014:
"An examination of nature, both as an idea and in its material form, throughout twentieth-century Canadian literature. Explores the foundations and consequences of the stereotypic view of Canada and Canadians as being obsessed with and grounded in nature, especially wilderness. Reflects upon touristic and governmental discourses of Canada and Canadianness. Blends literary studies with environmental studies, environmental history, and conservation biology."
|Eagle Pass Mountain, BC|
"We will question what consequences this traditional faith in wild nature might have in the near future under climate change, and what consequences it has had over the last hundred years. In particular, this course is intended to let students connect Canadian literature to the aims and methodologies of academic programs from across the university, such as environmental studies (especially law and history) and conservation biology."So, I'm left with two big questions: which directions should the class head, and what texts should we look at?
Directions: the easy option would be to stick close to literary history and ecocriticism. Nothing wrong with aesthetics, obviously, and English students generally seem interested still in the traditional questions of literature, so maybe that'd be more attractive for a larger group of students.
But more and more, I'm feeling seriously drawn toward taking a much more activist approach. Could an English class work, if we read all our literature in relation to something like the recent IPCC climate change report; the Enbridge pipeline's Joint Review Panel report; or the potentially destructive Park Amendment Act here in BC?
In other words, are English students prepared to buy into a course that blends environmentalist protest, ecosocial critique, and literary studies?
Texts: this is tricky not just because there are SO MANY GREAT OPTIONS, although there are, but because the choice of texts will limit the kinds of directions we'll be able to pursue. Here's where I'm at right now:
- four of the following literary works (in chronological order): Catherine Parr Traill, Canadian Crusoes; Charles GD Roberts, The Heart of the Ancient Wood; Gilean Douglas, River for My Sidewalk; Fred Bodsworth, Last of the Curlews; Sharon Butala, The Perfection of the Morning; Harold Rhenisch, Tom Thomson's Shack; Karsten Heuer, Being Caribou; Angie Abdou, The Canterbury Trail; Thomas Wharton, Icefields
- two of the following academic works (in alphabetical order): Hugh Brody, Maps and Dreams; Keri Cronin, Manufacturing National Park Nature; Edward Chamberlin, If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?