Skip to content

Featured Courses

EHUM 6850 / ISsues in Environmental Humanities

The Histories of the Natural World in the Colonial Americas

Dr. Thomas Michael Swenson, Ethnic Studies

What were the main environmental transformations fostered by the colonialism of the Americas? Which ideas and practices on nature emerged amid the centuries-long experience? These are two central questions of the seminar.

We will explore the Western Hemisphere’ natural and colonial worlds from the African slave cultivation of rice
in colonial Brazil to how Russian charted businesses forced the extinction of the Sea Cow in the Bering Sea. The seminar will also inquire how Europeans mapped the flora and fauna of the Americas to assess the impact of nature on bodies and temperaments. We will then examine how the silver mines of Potosí, in the Viceroyalty of Peru, fueled an empire while creating lasting ecological change. We’ll study the construction of Mexico City over Tenochtitlan and how
Caribbean Black healing practitioners employed localized environmental knowledge, in cities such as Cartagena, to contribute to the rise of empirical testing of disease origins and cures. We’ll move north
tracking the spread of European diseases among the Native nations in North America and end examining the extractive economy around the islands of southwest Alaska. This hemispheric approach will allow us to assess the centrality of the natural world to the colonial histories of the Americas and ponder their legacies.

EHUM 6850 / Issues in Environmental Humanities Anthropocentrism & interrelations under climate change

Dr. Angela Robinson, Gender Studies

The formidable impacts of climate change require profoundly rethinking our understandings of the human’s place in the world. Resolving climate change entails massive upheavals in the way power and capital accumulates, as well as in the very onto-epistemological underpinnings of what the human is and what it means for humans to be in relation to other species, other matter, and other worlds. This course examines this challenge from an interdisciplinary perspective; drawing from climate science, art and cultural production, queer theory, Indigenous and critical race studies, new materialisms, and animal studies. Together, we will explore historical constructions of the human, the co-constitutive nature of this human and climate change, and what new relations might be necessary for humans under climate change.

EHUM 6105 / EH Writing Seminar

Mr. Mark Sundeen, Visiting Instructor

This is a workshop for writing prose: memoir, personal essay, lyric essay, narrative journalism, travel stories, and any hybrid thereof. Works of fiction will also be considered. Each student will submit three pieces during the semester to be discussed in class. Workshops will focus on five basic elements of craft: voice, character, theme, structure, and plot. We will also hone the skill of providing verbal and written feedback: learning to comment on peers’ work with insights that are honest, kind, and constructive.

As this is a nonfiction course, I do not suggest that you make stuff up (unless it’s really good). However, I encourage you to freely borrow techniques from fiction and poetry to find your distinctive voice.

Reading List. The texts are not typical “environmental” writings. This is because this is a craft class, and exemplary work teaches us to write no matter the genre. And I’d like to spend the semester interrogating what is “the environment,” and asking why so much of its literature has sprung from a narrow slice of the population.

Books

The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr

Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk

Guillotine, Eduardo Corral

Essays

My President Was Black, Ta-Nehisi Coates

What Is It About Costco? Emily Mester

The Hunter and His Gun, Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz

Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell

A Black Woman Walks Into A Gun Show, Kashauna Cauley

The Land Duke Forgot, Dave Parmenter

The First Morning, Amy Irvine (from Desert Cabal)

Mimis in the Middle, Domingo Martinez

Fiction

Crown of Thorns, Louise Erdrich (from Love Medicine)

Indian Education, Sherman Alexie

Poems

“She Had Some Horses,” Joy Harjo

“Why I Hate Raisins,” Natalie Diaz

EHUM 6850 /  Issues in Environmental Humanities : Indigital Environments: Evaluating the Intersection between Digital and Biological Environments in an Indigenous Context

Dr. Aislinn McDougall

While, in many ways, the 21st century has housed a necessary turn of attention toward environmental issues both local and global, this century has also played host to the fast and sometimes unnerving proliferation of digital and internet technologies. Of course, the digital seems wholly at odds with ecological and environmental concerns—its hardware alone requires massive, industrial manufacturers, not to mention the server space and energy required to run its various softwares and programs. Yet, as environmental humanities requires a consideration of the environment as inherently tied to the humanities, and with the more recent rise of digital humanities discourse, mustn’t we include the digital in our understanding of environmental humanities? This notion is nicely exemplified by Stéfan Sinclair and Stephanie Posthumus who offer a Venn diagram that merges “digital,” “environment” and “humanities” to propose “digital environmental humanities” (372). This amalgamation of the digital, the environment and the humanities offers a fruitful lens through which we can engage the world around us. Yet, what have long remained central to discourse around environmental issues, and what are more recently emerging in the digital humanities are Indigenous expressions of, perspectives on and responses to questions of place, space, land, identity, community and justice. This course works to merge the fields of digital humanities and environmental humanities, as a means of illuminating the productive, and even sometimes problematic result of such a combination, focusing on the distinct question of “Indigital” environments. This course surveys a variety of texts including criticism, theory, nonfiction, literature, digital media, video games and social media, all of which illuminate the intersection between digital and biological environments in a strictly Indigenous context.

EHUM 6101: Foundations of Environmental Humanities

Dr. Brett Clark

Foundations is designed to introduce students to the broad foundations of environmental thought; it is a survey of cultural, ethical, historical, social, communication, and literary perspectives representing environmental humanities inquiry. Emphasis is placed on theoretical and research traditions. We will study an array of themes, issues, questions, and debates within the humanities and sciences. We will explore how human societies affect the environment, and how human societies are shaped by the environment, as well as how we come to recognize and understand changing environmental conditions. We will address issues associated with knowledge, meaning, justice, crisis, and sustainability.

At the end of the class the student will be able: 1) to evaluate major debates and perspectives within environmental thought; 2) to explicate concepts and ideas associated with the major paradigms; 3) to detail the historical development of environmental thought; 4) to apply different theories to the social and natural world; 5) to develop an informed perspective and approach to evaluate contemporary environmental problems, issues associated with justice/equality, and society/nature relationships; and (6) to propose paths of transformation and alternative futures.

EHUM 6102: Field Methods in Environmental Humanities

Dr. Lizzie Callaway

Field Methods is the second foundational course for the Environmental Humanities Program; it is designed to introduce the research methods available to scholars of the environmental humanities. As an inherently interdisciplinary field, environmental humanities has no predetermined or required research methods. Indeed, environmental humanities scholars employ a variety of analytical approaches that are determined by the scale, scope, and content of their research questions. By examining a set of exemplary texts – or “touchstones” – that draw on one or more of these approaches, we will aim for a better understanding of how and in what ways different research methods can enhance the pursuit of environmentally-oriented projects. Unlike traditional methods classes, you will not emerge with expertise in a particular methodology. Rather, as our reading and discussion schedule indicates, you will receive an introductory base of knowledge about different methods (e.g., ecocriticism, ethnography, visual studies, creative non-fiction), and our expectation is that you will use this knowledge to develop and articulate your own methodological focus.

EHUM 6103: Ecology of Residency

Dr. Lizzie Callaway

Ecology of Residency is designed as a field course to explore with students what it means to live in a community and engage in place. Various sites will serve as a focal point for these discussions within a regional context of issues pertinent to the surrounding community. We will learn about both ecology itself and the ways that the humanities have used ecology to explore human connection to the environment. Course readings and activities will explore how local connections have come to play a central role in environmental thinking. Simultaneously we will pay attention to larger-scale and abstract ways to relate to the nonhuman environment. Guest speakers will expand these concepts through their own expertise. In addition, time in this course will be devoted to the development of strong and well-researched prospectus drafts of individual thesis projects.

EHUM 6850: Issues in Environmental Humanities: Climate Change & the Humanities

Dr. Julia Corbett

The climate crisis isn't about the veracity of the science; the crisis is how we humans face and accept the crisis and rapidly chart new ways forward to meet this significant challenge to all of our lives and the living world. In communicating climate change, the problem is not insufficient information, but an acute inability to deal with the climate information we already have. Fossil fuel culture is extraordinarily deep, our emotions and fears are likewise deep and unvoiced, and climate silence is pervasive (in part because the crisis is viewed as political and divisive, not as biological and personal).

EHUM 6105 EH Writing Seminar:

Ms. Tiffany Higgins, 2020 Annie Clark Tanner Fellow in the Environmental Humanities

This course is required for all first-year students and offered as an option to second-years as
well as non-EH students. Much of Euro-American environmental writing holds as an underlying
assumption Western culture’s historical and ontological division between nature and culture.
We will examine Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s formulation of
Amerindian Perspectivism, in which all creatures (including plants) are humans with differing
cultures that are “natural” to them, but possess the ability to shift perspectives to take on
another creature’s cultural point of view. As habitat loss and warming climate increase, what
methods do we as writers and leaders use to tell the stories of specific, endangered
non-humans? We will challenge the fixed categories in our own ontological formulation, to
shake up the habitual ways we tell “environmental” stories, taking our cue from our readings,
many of which compose a cultural narrative in which natural figures are woven. As Luis
Prádanos and Mark Anderson point out, with our current ecological-economic crisis, it is
necessary that thinkers and leaders make alliances across ontological differences. Given that
many of the peoples most affected by ramped-up extraction and climate change are traditional
and poor communities, these alliances and perspective-taking abilities are increasingly essential
in order to convey the significance of their socio-environmental challenges to a wider public.
How can we make our own writing and thinking a site of ontological alliance, including
translating scientists’ current findings to a general public?

Students will read a variety of recent texts (the majority on the US West and Brazil) that
incorporate creative non-fiction techniques, and will write two articles of their own engaged
reportage on issues of local, pressing socio-environmental concern. (Local is interpreted as
anywhere in Utah or surrounding states so that the student can make a site visit at least 2-4
times.) Students will materialize and embody this local, current concern in specific people and
places (using creative non-fiction techniques of setting description, character depiction/internal
conflict, possible inclusion of the narrator in the story, dialogue, and story arc), and are
encouraged to experiment with different ways to represent non-human perspectives. These
writing projects will be broken down into manageable steps, including frequent peer reviews of
the developing material, and supported by frequent feedback from peers and the professor.

EHUM 6850 Issues in Environmental Humanities: 

Dr. Thomas Michael Swenson, Ethnic Studies

What were the main environmental transformations fostered by the colonial projects in the Americas? Which ideas
and practices on nature emerged amid the centuries-long colonial experience? These are two of the central questions
of this seminar. We will explore the Western Hemisphere’s natural and colonial worlds from the African slave
cultivation of rice in colonial Brazil to how Russian charted businesses forced the extinction of the Sea Cow in the
Bering Sea. The seminar considers the Columbian Exchange, the search for the Garden of Eden, and how Europeans
mapped the flora and fauna of the Americas to assess the impact of nature on bodies and temperaments. We’ll inquire
into how Potosí in the highlands of the Viceroyalty of Peru replaced the Spanish quest for the golden city of El Dorado.
We’ll study the construction of Mexico City over Tenochtitlan after the fall of the Aztec and inquiry into how Caribbean
Black healing practitioners employed localized knowledge that contributed to the rise of empirical testing of disease
origins and cures. We’ll move north tracking the spread of European diseases among indigenous nations in the North
American Southeast and north into the maritime extractive economy of Alaska. This hemispheric approach will allow
us to assess the centrality of the natural world to the colonial histories of the Americas as we ponder their legacies.

EHUM 6900/003 CLCS 6900 Ecocriticism - Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Dr. Katharina Gerstenberger, World Languages and Cultures, EH Research Professor 2019-21, EH Interim Director 2020-21

This seminar offers an introduction to the growing field of ecocriticism. Going back to the 1970s, ecocriticism is typically defined as the literary engagement with questions of the environment. While classic texts include Thoreau’s Walden (1854) and, importantly, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), ecocriticism as an academic discipline begins to gain prominence in the 1990s with Cheryll Glotfelty’s Ecocriticism Reader (1996).  Drawing on Feminist but also Marxist theory, the field has since grown to include historical perspectives, anthropological inquiries, and philosophy.  Of central concern to many thinkers is the relationship between humans and nature, with some scholars calling for the abandonment of the dichotomy altogether. More recently, the advent of the anthropocene, a term that comes from geology and refers to the human impact on the fossil record, has triggered considerable discussion and controversy.  In this class, we will familiarize ourselves with the development of ecocriticism and some important perspective. In addition to a range of theoretical texts, we will also read a selection of literary texts that address environmental issues.

EHUM 6101: Foundations of Environmental Humanities
Dr. Brett Clark


Foundations is designed to introduce students to the broad foundations of environmental thought; it is a survey of cultural, ethical, historical, social, communication, and literary perspectives representing environmental humanities inquiry. Emphasis is placed on theoretical and research traditions. We will study an array of themes, issues, questions, and debates within the humanities and sciences. We will explore how human societies affect the environment, and how human societies are shaped by the environment, as well as how we come to recognize and understand changing environmental conditions. We will address issues associated with knowledge, meaning, justice, crisis, and sustainability. At the end of the class the student will be able: 1) to evaluate major debates and perspectives within environmental thought; 2) to explicate concepts and ideas associated with the major paradigms; 3) to detail the historical development of environmental thought; 4) to apply different theories to the social and natural world; 5) to develop an informed perspective and approach to evaluate contemporary environmental problems, issues associated with justice/equality, and society/nature relationships; and (6) to propose paths of transformation and alternative futures.

EHUM 6102: Field Methods in Environmental Humanities
Dr. Lizzie Callaway


Field Methods is the second foundations course for the Environmental Humanities Program; it is designed to introduce the research methods available to scholars of the environmental humanities. As an inherently interdisciplinary field, environmental humanities has no predetermined or required research methods. Indeed, environmental humanities scholars employ a variety of analytical approaches that are determined by the scale, scope, and content of their research questions. By examining a set of exemplary texts – or “touchstones” – that draw on one or more of these approaches, we will aim for a better understanding of how and in what ways different research methods can enhance the pursuit of environmentally-oriented projects. Unlike traditional methods classes, you will not emerge with expertise in a particular methodology. Rather, as our reading and discussion schedule indicates, you will receive an introductory base of knowledge about different methods (e.g., ecocriticism, ethnography, visual studies, creative non-fiction), and our expectation is that you will use this knowledge to develop and articulate your own methodological focus.

EHUM 6103: Ecology of Residency
Dr. Julia Corbett


This required field course allows Environmental Humanities students to collectively explore ecology and the process of writing in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Taft-Nicholson Center in the Centennial Valley will be our focal point for considering a much broader question: how do we engage and/or embed ourselves – intellectually, physically, and emotionally – in the larger “natural” or beyond-human world? What considerations does ecology present for the “fact of living in a place”? Even when we don’t consciously “see” the world beyond our own species, how do we remain in interrelationships with all organisms, elements, and processes? Our course will be diverse and rich in activities: readings, walks and field trips, discussions, guest speakers and scientists, shared meals, evening presentations, and intensive personal writing time. In our meetings, we will contemplate ecological concepts, the natural history and wonder of other beings in this valley, and one another. Collectively and individually, we will explore our brief residency and habitation in this place.

EHUM 6804: Tertulia
Dr. Jeffrey McCarthy

Tertulia explores topics in the environmental humanities, place-based study, and environmentalism as a social movement. This course introduces students to current issues and debates in environmentalism. Tertulia is designed to build community among Environmental Humanities students and to integrate academic work with environmental activism. Our meetings offer us a flexible setting for discussing environmental topics and participating in the world around us. This means we will engage a specific concept each meeting through reading and discussion. We will also use the course to hear from environmental thinkers, visit places to see the environmental humanities in action, and push forward with professional and graduation goals.


EHUM 6850: Issues In Environmental Humanities: Food and the Environment
Dr. Carlos Gray Santana, 2017-2019 Environmental Humanities Research Professor

Issues in Environmental Humanities is offered each semester to investigate central issues in the field of environmental humanities. The course is shaped toward master’s students in the Environmental Humanities program, and emerges from our faculty’s research specialties. 

How and what we feed ourselves is an inextricable part of how we shape our planet. From the fossil fuels and habit destruction required by industrial agriculture, to the exploitation of distant lands and peoples to produce culinary products in demand locally, our food system is laden with all sorts of cultural and ethical issues.In this course we’ll examine those issues from as broad a lens as we can. Readings will come from not only philosophy and literary studies, but also from history, sociology, economics, nutrition science, psychology, geography, and indigenous studies, among other fields. We’ll survey a wide array of topics, including the ecological impact of individual food choice, the entanglement of food issues with issues of social justice, and movements to transition our food system to a more sustainable future. This is a seminar course, and we’ll all need to be active participants, prepared to contribute to our joint understanding of these complex issues.

EHUM 6105 EH Writing Seminar: Tectonic Essays

Gretchen Henderson - Annie Clark Tanner Teaching and Research Fellowship in the Environmental Humanities

This course is required for all first year students and offered as an option to second-years as well as non-EH students. The goal of this class is to engage writing and environmental humanities through a material, multi-sensory, inter-disciplinary focus and framework. The course aims to help students to develop a critical-creative practice honed by deep reading and writing and sustained by contemplative attention. Throughout the semester students will reflect on what it means to be “human” in a world of entangled human, animal, and other presences. Additionally, as this is a writing seminar, skills for effectively read, write, analyze, articulate, and critique work by writers and peers will be honed through peer-reviews and workshopping. By the end of the course, clear connections will have been fostered between classroom and the larger environment.

Students will use ‘field notebooks’ to house in-class notes, reading notes and quotes, thoughts that relate to the course and anything else that they feel fuels their explorations. Each week, writing assignments will allow students to test different forms of expression relating to weekly reading assignments. In-class speakers and field trips offer different perspectives and enrich the classroom environment.

EHUM 6850 Issues in Environmental Humanities:The Blue Humanities: Ocean Pasts, Ocean Futures

Jeffery McCarthy

Issues in Environmental Humanities is offered each semester to investigate central issues in the field of environmental humanities. The course is shaped toward master’s students in the Environmental Humanities program, and emerges from our faculty’s research specialties. The issues considered will vary with faculty member expertise, and will extend to the most important conversations in this emerging field.

During Spring 2019, EH Director, Jeff McCarthy will guide students in their exploration of oceans. To do this, the course will explore a new area of study called the Blue Humanities and will engage relevant literary, historical, legal, philosophical and theoretical treatments of the ocean. Throughout the semester, climate change, literary representation, policy, gender, indigenous experience, recreation and law will inform student’s study. Students are also invited to attend Re-Valuing the Ocean: Perspectives from the law, the Sciences, and the Blue Humanities, a 2-day symposium hosted by Environmental Humanities and the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

COMM 5360 Environmental Communication

Julia Corbett

From the Department of Communication, this course examines the ways that we continually communicate (verbally and nonverbally, visually, and through actions and practices) about the natural world or environment around us. Environmental communication interprets and defines all that is beyond human and thus shapes individual and societal values and choices. It influences where we see “nature” and our relationship with it. The course analyzes and critiques popular culture communication about the environment (advertising, food, entertainment, consumption, and leisure), environmental ideology and identity (with roots in childhood), and mediated forms of environmental communication (mass media, public relations and government). 

 

COMM 5365 Communicating Climate Change

Julia Corbett

This course, through the Department of Communication, explores the major players in climate communication: the public, mass media, climate scientists and their deniers, and institutions. Scholars have called climate change the most difficult communication challenge of the century. Communication plays a major role at all levels of social change to address climate change and involves far more than simply providing more information. The course also examines the efficacy of social change at various levels of communication: individual, small groups and peer networks, activism, community and place-based, institutional, and cultural (including art, music and literature). Students practice friendly climate conversations and undertake communication action or research.

EHUM 6900 Special Topics in Environmental Humanities

Jeffery McCarthy

This is a one-credit course offered each Spring semester. While the special topic changes, the focus of the course is a field trip to the Bonderman Field Station, near Moab, UT. Students will read and discuss several texts with one key topic income throughout the semester. The weekend trip to Rio Mesa provides an opportunity for the class to discuss the readings in detail, connect with the environmental and dream into new ideas.

EHUM 6804: Tertulia

Jeffrey McCarthy

Tertulia explores topics in the environmental humanities, place-based study, and environmentalism as a social movement. This course introduces students to current issues and debates in environmentalism. Tertulia is designed to build community among Environmental Humanities students and to integrate academic work with environmental activism. Our meetings offer us a flexible setting for discussing environmental topics and participating in the world around us. This means we will engage a specific concept each meeting through reading and discussion. We will also use the course to hear from environmental thinkers, visit places to see the environmental humanities in action, and push forward with professional and graduation goals.

 

The Environmental Humanities Program encourages students to explore courses in other departments within the College of Humanities. Find University of Utah’s course schedules here.

Last Updated: 6/3/21