Literature and the Environment

Literary and artistic expressions of the American landscape reveal panoramas of breathtaking natural beauty, but they also help illuminate panoplies of political and aesthetic ideologies that have shifted dramatically over time.  Literary and artistic representations of the environment, in other words, have much to teach us about our selves, our individual and collective beliefs, our history as a nation, and, perhaps most importantly, our possibilities for a global future.


“Axolotl” in Voyant

Very pleased by the ease of Voyant as a tool for text analysis!
I used Julio Cortázar’s “Axolotl” and was excited that the tool allows you to make a word cloud, easily apply stop words (and edit these if you need to), and visualize frequency by simply checking a box, *all on the same page*. (In the screenshot below, I decided to check words that suggested transparency (aquarium, tank, glass) to see where and how often these appeared in the text.)   I will definitely use this in my classes this year–am looking forward to it after piecemealing it with Wordle …


Beat the Devil

It doesn’t get much better than this:

“Satan’s Computer–Doug is an ace arcade player-he always seems to make the winning moves. Then he is faced with the ultimate test, an incredible computer game called Beat the Devil, in which much more than his ego is on the line. It’s the most exciting-and the most dangerous-challenge of his life. First his sanity, then his closest friends, and finally his very soul are at stake-as he competes against a monstrous, mind-shattering code—programmed by the prince of evil…” (from Goodreads).

Mapping Literary Ecologies

Example of a visualization of Moby Dick

Mapping Literary Ecologies For this three-fold assignment it is your task 1) to select one of the assigned readings on our syllabus and prepare a short, written ecocritical analysis of it (500-750 words); 2) to make use of free online resources, such as google maps, google “Lit Trip,” or, and create a map, timeline, or other visualization of your argument; and 3) share your findings to the class in a short (5-7 minutes) presentation.

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Sometimes I make stuff on my computer. If I’m feeling brave, I’ll rope my students into making stuff with me. They always surprise me with the beautiful things they create. My stuff, on the other hand, is never rarely pretty, logical, or useful.  Often, it doesn’t even work properly, or at least not the way I thought it would when I set out to make it.  In this respect the stuff I make tends to fail both aesthetically and functionally. That’s ok.  I mostly make stuff to learn how stuff gets made or to learn more about how texts get read.  If you are interested in making stuff, too, for whatever reason, here are a couple of places you might enjoy: 1: DiRT (Digital Resource Tools) and 2: Digital Toy Chest for Humanists.   At any rate, here’s my stuff! (If it’s password protected it’s still in the oven.)

Elegy for a Dead World

As soon as I saw this beautiful game I wanted to play it in my classes. Fortunately,  Steam was generous to give us enough keys to try.   I was personally more interested in getting lost in the visuals than I was in writing, but my students loved it and produced excellent work.  This game is gorgeous, but I recommend it for a more practical reason as well: versatility.  We played in in my Creative Writing SF class, but I now want to try it with Literature and the Environment, Literary Theory, and—if I ever get to teach it—a class on Experimental Narratives. It could work for any course that emphasizes composition, rhetoric, and creative expression.  A big thumb’s up.

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Evaluating Literary Criticism

1. Write the author, title, and publisher of your article, formatted according to the MLA’s guidelines for the Works Cited. Consult the OWL at Purdue for sample entries and correct formatting guidelines. If there is a link to the article, list it here.

2. In one brief paragraph, summarize the article’s argument and main points.

3. Locate one passage of the article that you want to challenge, support, or complicate. Put this passage in quotation marks and type it up here. Include the page number.

4. Which logical fallacy does the author employ? Write this down. Hasty generalizing is a big problem in literary criticism, as is falling prey to the “Post Hoc” fallacy (also known as correlation is not causation). There are, however, many other possibilities to choose from.

5. In one or two sentences, explain how the fallacy could be corrected.